Firms strug­gle with agency lag­ging on NDIS pay­ments

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - MARTINA SIMOS

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.

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