Firms struggle with agency lagging on NDIS payments
DELAYED payments worth up to $300 million are owed to private and not-for-profit National Disability Insurance Scheme providers across Australia, causing major financial pain and risking the future for some operators.
Other providers have been forced to restructure and cut back staff numbers to survive, while working overtime to claim the money they are owed for services provided to NDIS participants.
SA disability service provider Minda is waiting on $2.5 million in late payments from the NDIA (National Disability Insurance Agency, which implements the NDIS).
Those late payments are caused by delays in NDIS participants having their plans renewed or reviewed by the agency.
Former Minda chief executive Cathy Miller says delayed payments in SA are just the “tip of the iceberg” with providers across Australia waiting for $300 million in payments from the NDIA.
“As a business, you have to make a decision – do we stop services until we know what (funding) they have got or do we keep risking not being fully funded for the service we are giving them?,’’ she said. Ms Miller says Minda took the decision to continue to meet the needs of their clients in “good faith”, hoping the payments will eventually come through.
But money available to some participants for some services has been cut.
“This has meant that Minda has delivered services for which it is unlikely to recover funds,’’ she said.
“What we are finding is people are coming back with a plan – this would be their second plan – where their funding has been cut.”
There are 1960 registered NDIS service providers in SA and about 17,164 South Australians receiving disability support valued at $760 million.
A 2017 report on the state of the disability sector found two-thirds of providers were worried they would not be able to provide services at NDIS prices and only 58 per cent planned to increase services. NDIS registered provider Good Prospects Speech Pathology has about 200 NDIS participants on its books.
Owner Diana Bleby says even straightforward claims can take months because the NDIA’s electronic portal for claims is difficult to negotiate.
Until recently, the NDIS owed her $37,000 but she has dedicated extra administration time to chasing payments to bring the amount owed down to $10,000.
“I had cashflow issues to the point where I couldn’t pay staff,’’ she said. Ms Bleby says the biggest issue is when a participant’s annual plan ends as the renewal process to get to the next approved plan is slow. This results in a person being unable to claim money for services provided under a previous plan until the next plan is approved.
She says advocating and being able to directly access a new service provider team inside the NDIA has helped.
IN GOOD FAITH: Cathy Miller.