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To register or not to register?

Two women talk over coffee in a cafe.

Thinking of registering for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to attract new clients? We wanted to recap the pros and cons of registering for the NDIS if you have a business that works with – or has the capacity to work with – participants.

Registered providers have committed to practicing and upholding the quality standards that are set out by the NDIS, and they can also deliver some services that unregistered providers can’t.

But, while registering for the NDIS can open your business up to more customers, lift service quality and reputation, and help you cut through a cluttered market, there are also downsides to consider, which is why we’ve created this pros and cons list.

Before we get started, we want to explain what a registered provider is, and what it can mean to NDIS participants.

Service providers – or ‘providers’, as we generally call them – are businesses or individuals that provide participants in the NDIS with services and products that relate to their NDIS goals. They can be cleaners, physiotherapists, support workers, gardeners and more.

An organisation or individual can apply to be a registered NDIS provider with the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission. Registered providers must meet the NDIS Practice Standards that create an important benchmark to assess performance and demonstrate that providers deliver high quality and safe supports and services to NDIS participants.

Registered providers are recognised as providers that are committed to practicing and upholding the quality standards that are set out by the NDIS, but they can also deliver some services that unregistered providers can’t.

These registered provider-exclusive services are plan management, Specialist Disability Accommodation, Supported Independent Living, behaviour support or behaviour management planning, and supports that involve restrictive practices (these are practices that have the effect of restricting the rights or freedom of movement of a person with disability, like physical restraint).

With that being said, here are some of the pros and cons of registering for the NDIS:

Why you may choose to register for the NDIS

  • Participants who choose plan management or self management to manage their NDIS plans can opt to use the services of both registered and unregistered providers, while those who have their funding managed by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) – Agency managed – are limited to receiving supports from registered providers.

    Being restricted to using only one provider pool may limit choice and control, especially if there are no appropriate registered supports in the area a participant lives in, if registered providers in their local area are at capacity and can’t take new clients, or if they don’t have a great personal relationship with the registered providers accessible to them.

    Registering for the NDIS opens your business’ door to a wider base of customers, including the many thousands of Australians who are Agency managed.

  • Registered providers are verified by the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission and bound by the NDIS Practice Standards, which means they’re heavily regulated, compliant with NDIA requirements, and providers of verified, quality services.

  • The NDIS Code of Conduct applies to any organisation that serves NDIS participants – regardless of registration status – but NDIS registration can provide assurance that the provider’s services and supports meet the level of quality and safety stated in the NDIS Practice Standards – and that may positively impact your brand and perceptions of your team and the services you deliver.

  • NDIS registered providers are more frequently utilised, and NDIA data shows they typically invoice for higher amounts. According to the Agency, for the 12 months to 31 December 2022, unregistered providers were used less frequently and had a higher proportion of one-off payments, while – on average – the frequency of one-off payments was five times lower for registered providers.

    Additionally, payments to registered providers were approximately two and a half times higher than those made to their unregistered peers.

    So, NDIS registration might bring greater financial returns to your business.

  • Registered providers receive a listing on the NDIS Provider Register, which can help to raise awareness of your business and create opportunities to cut through a cluttered market. When you are NDIS registered, your website can also show the NDIS registered business badge, which can add confidence and certainty for potential new clients.

  • Participants looking for new service providers may perceive NDIS registered providers to be a less risky option. However, it’s the quality of your service –and where you’re based (or willing to travel to) – that typically tip the balance, along with competitive pricing.

  • Providers that offer a good, local service at prices below the NDIS Pricing Arrangements and Price Limits present a very attractive option!

Why you may choose not to register for the NDIS

  • Submitting an NDIS provider registration application is free. However, you’ll be responsible for the cost of procuring an audit against the applicable NDIS Practice Standards, which is a lengthy and somewhat costly process.

  • This is often too big a hurdle for smaller businesses, so they choose not to register – even though they may have the credentials to provide a high quality service that suits their clients and is completely covered by the Scheme. In that way, the difference to participants is minimal.

  • Plan management and self management are the top choices for NDIS funds management, meaning there are lots of NDIS clients you can support, even if you don’t seek registration.

    During the two years to December 2022, the proportion of NDIS participants who used a plan manager increased from 45 per cent to 58 per cent, and 30 per cent elected to self manage all or part of their plan. By comparison, the percentage of Agency managed participants decreased from 24 per cent to 12 per cent across the same period.

  • Some participants like having the option of being able to use small, local providers that are frequently unregistered businesses. Because unregistered providers tend to be smaller business that are trying to grow their market share and remain unencumbered by the systems and processes adopted by their larger competitors, they may provide cost savings to clients (lower service fees), more flexibility and improved service quality.

    The Conversation published interviews with a group of NDIS participants who used unregistered providers and said their services often equated to more flexible shift times, increased choice, and greater consistency of workers.

    According to NDIA reports, ‘unregistered providers are used for more ‘general’ support items which are not necessarily disability specific and can be considered more readily available’.

  • The option of using unregistered providers supports NDIS participants to exercise greater choice and control – which may help to validate your decision to remain unregistered.

  • Often, the fact that a provider is NDIS registered and able to show compliance with NDIS Quality Standards is a selling point for potential NDIS clients. But, if you aren’t NDIS registered, you could leverage your current qualifications (like an Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency – or AHPRA – registration) as a selling point in a similar way. You can showcase the credentials you have to grow trust and credibility with potential new clients.
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My Plan Manager acknowledges the objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

My Plan Manager acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to Elders both past and present.
© My Plan Manager 2020
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