The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a scheme for people with disabilities and their families. The NDIS provides services and support to those who need them to live an ordinary life.
It’s designed to ensure that no one misses out on the help and support they need to do everyday things. But what does this mean? What sort of assistance will be given?
Service providers for children with disability, ASD and other additional needs
Children with a disability, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), developmental delay or other additional needs need various support for their development. Support can include things like early intervention, community health services, playgroups and much more.
The people who provide this support are called disability service providers. If you have a child with a disability, ASD or other additional needs, you need to choose the right disability service providers for your child. You might work with one or many service providers.
The best service providers for your child will be the ones who meet your child’s specific needs.
Choosing disability service providers for children
When you’re choosing service providers, it’s good to meet providers face to face. You can often get more information this way, plus a better sense of whether service professionals are listening to you and trying to understand your needs and goals.
It’s OK to visit services more than once before choosing or to ask to meet with several different professionals within the service.
You can work out which disability service providers meet your child’s needs by thinking and asking about:
- service provision
- service standards and staff qualifications.
These are questions about how service providers can help you, what you can get from the providers, and when to expect the help your child needs. Here are some questions you can ask:
- How will you work with me to support my child’s development?
- How much flexibility is there? In other words, how much choice will I have about what to use within the service?
- Where will the service be provided – for example, via video conference, in my home, in a hospital, clinic, community centre, early learning centre, or school? And can I choose?
- What support can you give my child when they move to kindergarten, child care or school? For example, will you come to kindergarten, child care or school meetings if I want you to?
- How will you support the mainstream or community activities that my child might be involved with – for example, playgroups or sports clubs?
- What can I do if I’m unhappy with the support you’re providing for my child?
These are questions about the practical side of using service providers and whether services suit your child and family. Here are some questions for you to think about:
- Can you and your child get to the service quickly? For example, can you get there by public transport, or is there a car park nearby?
- When, how often and for how long will your child need the service?
- How long is each session likely to take?
- What are the service’s operating hours?
- Is there a cost involved?
- Is there a waiting list? How long will it take to get an appointment?
Service standards and staff qualifications
These are questions about the quality of service providers. Here are some questions you can ask:
- What qualifications and experience do the professionals in your organisation have? Does the service have an accreditation system?
- Is the service government-funded or connected with a university or hospital?
- Do you follow the Early Childhood Intervention Australia National Guidelines: Best Practice in Early Childhood Intervention or the National Standards for Disability Services?
- What are your service’s mission, vision and values?
- How long has your service been operating?
Looking to take the stress out of NDIS?
Yes we can process your NDIS invoices, remove time-consuming paperwork and let you track your spending through the My Plan Manager Client Portal. But we also help you make sure that your child is getting the support that they need, and not missing out on important items that can really make a difference to their plan goals.
Deciding on disability service providers for your child
Once you’ve visited or spoken to the disability service providers you’re considering, you could draw up a list of pros and cons to help you decide which service providers might suit your child best.
If you’re still not sure after comparing the pros and cons, it’s OK to:
- go back to service providers and ask more questions
- ask other professionals what they think might be best for your child
- ask other parents about their experiences.
Sometimes you might decide on a service provider and get started, but then you realise that the service provider isn’t right for you after all. That’s OK – you can change providers.
NDIS providers: what you can expect from services and support
Your child’s NDIS providers should give your child and your family supports and services that are:
- good quality
Good-quality NDIS services and supports
To ensure that your child gets good-quality services and supports, NDIS providers should:
- supply only assistance that they’re qualified and trained to provide – for example, your child’s speech therapist should focus on your child’s speech and not offer support in areas they’re not qualified in
- act on any concerns about quality and safety – for example, your child’s NDIS provider might reduce background noise or music if it’s too stimulating for your child
- be honest, transparent and realistic with you – for example, your child’s NDIS provider should explain how therapy will help your child reach their NDIS goals
- be transparent about their services – for example, your child’s NDIS provider should tell you about their fees and any additional costs you can expect, like fees for writing reports.
Respectful NDIS services and supports
To ensure that your child gets respectful services and supports, NDIS providers should:
- involve your child in decisions when possible – for example, a younger child might be able to choose the colour of their eating aid, and an older child might be able to select between therapists
- give you, your child and your child’s other carers information that you can understand – for example, NDIS providers might organise an interpreter to explain a therapy in your family’s language
- respect your child’s background, beliefs, gender and sexuality – for example, your child’s therapist should offer to remove their shoes before entering your home if that’s polite in your culture
- keep information about your child and family private – for example, NDIS providers must store information by privacy laws and only share it with other providers when you say they can
- respect your child’s privacy by keeping conversations focused on your child’s therapeutic goals – for example, if your child has two mums, your child’s therapist shouldn’t ask questions about how your child was conceived.
Safe NDIS services and supports
To ensure that your child gets safe services and supports, NDIS providers should:
- provide a physically safe space – for example, your child should be able to move around with their walker without bumping into things
- provide a verbally safe space – for example, people should speak to you and your child in a kind and gentle ways
- provide an emotionally safe space – for instance, you should feel comfortable to share information about your cultural background, any trauma you or your child have experienced, or your experiences parenting a gender-diverse child or being part of a rainbow family.
Safety is also about protecting your child from harm, including physical violence, verbal aggression, sexual abuse, insults, humiliation and neglect.
The law says that NDIS providers must take all reasonable steps to prevent these forms of harm from affecting your child.
Ensuring quality, respect and safety: NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission
All NDIS providers are regulated by an Australian Government agency called the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission. The NDIS Commission makes sure NDIS providers and their workers follow the rules and requirements outlined in the NDIS Code of Conduct.
To do this, the NDIS Commission:
- makes sure NDIS providers know and follow the rules about quality, respect and safety
- assists with and response to complaints, concerns and serious incidents related to NDIS providers and their workers
- keeps a list of registered NDIS providers who have to do extra things to ensure the quality and safety of their services and supports.
The NDIS Commission can take action against registered or unregistered NDIS providers or workers who aren’t treating people the way the NDIS Code of Conduct says they should.
For example, the NDIS Commission can ban providers from working with NDIS participants.
The NDIS Commission can also take action against registered NDIS providers who aren’t following the NDIS Practice Standards.
About NDIS providers
NDIS providers are organisations and people that supply supports and services to NDIS participants like your child.
NDIS providers can be companies, charities or not-for-profit organisations. They can also be individuals.
Registered NDIS providers and unregistered NDIS providers: what’s the difference?
Registered providers are registered with the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, which regulates all NDIS providers.
Unregistered providers aren’t registered with the NDIS Commission.
The critical thing about NDIS providers being registered or unregistered is that it affects who can use them. And this depends on how you manage your child’s NDIS funds.
- If you self-manage or plan-manage your child’s NDIS funds, you can use registered NDIS providers, unregistered NDIS providers or a mix of both.
- If the NDIA manages your child’s funds, you can use only NDIS registered providers.
Some but not all NDIS providers must register with the NDIS Commission. But being registered or unregistered shouldn’t affect the level of support or quality of service that your child gets from providers.
Registered and unregistered providers: NDIS rules and requirements
Both registered and unregistered providers must:
- treat people according to laws in the NDIS Code of Conduct
- respond appropriately to complaints from people using their services
The NDIS has the extra quality and safety requirements for registered providers. They must:
- comply with NDIS Practice Standards
- employ, check and train their workers according to NDIS Commission standards
- report incidents to the NDIS Commission – for example, serious injury or abuse
The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission and NDIS providers
The NDIS Commission makes sure all NDIS providers work according to NDIS rules and requirements. To do this, the NDIS Commission:
- makes sure NDIS providers know and follow the rules for quality and safety
- assists with and response to concerns, complaints and serious incidents related to all NDIS providers.
The NDIS Commission can take action against registered or unregistered NDIS providers or workers who aren’t treating people the way the NDIS Code of Conduct says they should. For example, the NDIS Commission can ban NDIS providers from working with NDIS participants.
The NDIS Commission can also take action against registered NDIS providers who aren’t following the NDIS Practice Standards.
NDIS providers: when to complain
You and your child can expect quality, respect and safety from NDIS providers. It’s always OK to speak up if you’re unhappy with:
- the services and supports you’re getting from an NDIS provider
- the way an NDIS provider is treating you, your child or your family.
Where to start with complaints about NDIS providers
It’s best to start by raising your concern with your child’s NDIS provider. For example, ‘Thanks for telling me about Xander’s progress. But Xander and I would feel more comfortable if you use their preferred pronoun when you talk about them’.
If you’re not happy with the way the NDIS provider responds to your complaint, you can make a complaint to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.
You can also go straight to the NDIS Commission if you feel safe or comfortable complaining to the NDIS provider.
Next steps: complaints to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission
The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission is the government agency that regulates NDIS providers and handles complaints about them.
You can complain to the NDIS Commission about an NDIS provider in two ways:
- First, complete an online complaint form.
- Call the NDIS Commission on 1800 035 544 or Text Telephone (TTY) 133 677.
When you make your complaint, you’ll need to tell the NDIS Commission:
- who the NDIS provider or worker is
- what you’re unhappy about
- what happened
- when it happened
- how it affected your child and your family.
You can give evidence to the NDIS Commission to support your complaint – for example, photographs or reports.
It’s also a good idea to think about what you want to happen. For example, do you want to work with the NDIS provider to sort out the problem, or do you want penalties imposed? Severe penalties include de-registering providers and banning workers and service providers.
You can withdraw your complaint at any time. And you can ask the NDIS Commission to keep your identity confidential, but this might make it harder to resolve your complaint.
The NDIS Commission can arrange an interpreter to help you make a complaint if you need one.
After you make an NDIS complaint
After you make a complaint, someone from the Quality and SafeNDIS guards Commission will contact you. This person will confirm the details of the complaint and ask you how you want it resolved. They’ll get the NDIS provider only if you say they can.
The NDIS Commission might help you sort out the complaint by:
- talking with you and your child’s NDIS provider
- , investigating further and taking action against the NDIS provider.
Actions against NDIS providers can include bans from working with NDIS participants.
Getting help with NDIS complaints
Friends or family members can support you with complaints about your child’s NDIS provider. For example, they might listen to your thoughts, go to meetings with you or help you fill out forms.
You can also get support from a volunteer or paid advocate, who can explain the law and your child’s rights. This person can go to meetings with you too. You can use the Disability Advocacy Finder to find an advocate close to you. You can also find advocacy services in your area by contacting your local community centre, local council, library or neighbourhood house. Your local disability service should also be able to help.