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Could NDIS Self-Management Be Right For You?

February 03, 2021
Could NDIS Self-Management Be Right For You?

The implementation of the NDIS has been a very exciting development for thousands of Australians and their families. People who participate in the NDIS now have more control over important decisions that directly affect them than the pre-NDIS funding methods previously used around the country.

For the NDIS to be as inclusive as possible, there are three different options available when it comes to choosing how to use your allocated funds. While most people choose plan-managed, agency managed, or a combination of the two, self-management is another option.

There is no standout way to manage your NDIS plan, it all depends on what works best for your unique circumstances. Let's take a look at how self-management works and why it could be the best option for you.

How self-management works

Self-management is relatively self-explanatory. When people choose this option, they are given control of their NDIS funds and can decide what products and services to purchase to help them achieve their plan-outlined goals. The process is comparable to managing your household budget, including tasks like paying people, managing your cash flow (in this case, your NDIS plan funding) and taking care of receipts and bookkeeping. The standard workflow for self-management is as follows:

  • You select what product and services you require

  • You pay for them

  • You claim the invoice in the NDIS portal after it has been completed

Who can manage their own NDIS plan?

If you seek more independence and control over the way you live your life, self-managing your NDIS plan is an excellent way to do so. While self-management isn't suitable for everyone, many people on the NDIS scheme do it successfully. If you or someone close to you (family member or trusted friend) can do two to three of the following tasks, then you could consider self-management:

  • Pay your bills online

  • Regularly check your bank account

  • Review and collect invoices and receipts

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The pros and cons of self-management

Before deciding whether self-management is right for your needs, it’s crucial to understand some of the common pros and cons that people who self-manage have discovered. While they might not all apply to your circumstances, assessing the following will be a great place to start.

Pros

  1. Flexibility: Choosing to have a self-managed NDIS plan opens up a whole world of flexibility for your funding use compared to plan-managed and agency-managed options. For some people, being flexible is the main reason they choose the self-managed path because it allows them to pivot how they spend their funding if the situation arises. An example of this could be using your core supports budget to try something new that may help achieve your plan-outlined goals. Doing this on a self-managed plan is more straightforward than having an agency or managed plan, as you can proceed without involving others in the process.

  2. Getting creative with how you spend your budget: There are many circumstances where traditional supports may not help individuals and what goals they wish to achieve. For self-managed participants, you are free to get creative and think outside the box when spending your budget. You can use this freedom to purchase products or supports that otherwise would be more complicated (or in some cases impossible) without being self-managed.

  3. Can negotiate prices: Getting the most value out of your NDIS plan to attain your goals is extremely important and allows you to fully maximise what resources are in your control and be content with the financial outcome of the situation. You also have the option to not comply with the NDIS price guide when self-managing, which means you can choose to pay more for a service or piece of equipment. This situation can occur if there is a product or service that you really want, is reasonable and necessary, and you think it is worth paying more than what the NDIS guide states.

  4. Participants in rural areas have more options available to them: There can be some extra challenges associated with being an NDIS participant when you live in a rural area. One of the most common issues people face is having a limited number of NDIS registered providers available that fit specific needs. Since you are free to use non-registered providers when self-managing your plan, this obstacle can be significantly reduced. Instead of relying upon providers, you get to choose your own that are more localised.

  5. You can choose and employ your own staff or organise your own carers directly via the agency: Those on a self-managed plan do not have to rely upon agencies or other external factors for staffing solutions. Instead, you are the person who chooses what people support you. Employing your own selected support workers can have significant benefits such as a sense of stability and feeling more in control of your decisions. It also means you’re empowered when it comes to making decisions about who is working for you.

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Cons

  1. Self-management is more hands-on: Although you do have more control going with a self-managed plan, you also need to be aware that there are more moving parts to implementing it successfully as opposed to the other options. It is more work to choose this option and it will take up more of your time. Some people would see this as a con since they value their own time and would rather outsource this support.

  2. There are more admin tasks: There is naturally more administration on a self-managed plan, so if you aren't a numbers person, this may not be appealing. There are ways to stay on top of the admin side, including asking for self-management help to be included as part of your core funding or even utilise funding from within your package to up-skill in basic finance and administration.

  3. Services may cost more: In some circumstances, you may find that a registered service provider is more expensive, however, you are able to purchase the service cheaper from a mainstream provider. Your supplier does not need to be a registered NDIS provider to access your funding.

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Your responsibilities

The following are some of the responsibilities that come with choosing a self-managed plan. While it may seem like a lot, they are all achievable. Help is available from your NDIA planner (Local Area Coordinator) if you need some advice.

  1. Opening a separate bank account: If you choose to self-manage your NDIS plan, you must open a separate bank account for all your transactions. This account is where your funds will be deposited and how you will pay your invoices for the different products and services you purchase. You can't claim any bank fees as part of your plan, so if possible, choose a bank account with no or low costs.

  2. Choosing and organising your own services: It will be up to you to decide what agreements you would like in place and how you will manage your funds. This can be very exciting since you can take control and choose who to work with and what arrangements you have with them.

  3. Paying for your services: Paying for your chosen services isn't difficult, but there is a specific process to be reimbursed. After you have purchased an item or used a service, you have to claim the invoice via your NDIS portal. Following the service or purchase, it will take around two business days for your funds to be transferred to your bank account. Once you have them, you can then use the money to cover the purchase or service cost. For recurring services such as paying support workers weekly or a fortnightly gym subscription, many people will set up a regular payment schedule. This ensures you’re not out of pocket while waiting for the funds to be transferred to your bank account.

  4. Linking purchases to your plan goals: It is vital that all of your purchases are deemed reasonable and necessary to achieve the goals outlined in your plan and proof that your funding is being spent correctly to meet your goals.

  5. Managing your total plan budget: Managing your budget and its three different categories is one of the most essential pieces to the puzzle of self-management. People can be intimidated by this task, but as long as you are aware of how much you are spending throughout the year, managing your budget is very achievable.

  6. Record keeping: You also need to keep all purchase receipts and invoices for five years to comply with NDIS guidelines. If you decide to directly employ support workers, this increases to seven years. Keeping records is critical because although uncommon, audits can be conducted to see if your budget has been used correctly. Keeping your receipts means that the auditing process will be much easier since you can prove that your funds have been correctly spent.

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Splitting up your plan

Thanks to the NDIS scheme's flexibility, you also have the option to have part of your plan either agency or plan-managed. This can help those who want to take the self-managed route but don't feel comfortable taking control of every single aspect. For example, you can choose to have an agency provide the services or support workers while managing other parts of your budget, such as your capacity and capital supports.

If you do opt for a self-managed plan, don’t forget that you can ask for funded supports related to helping you manage your plan as part of your package. See examples below:

  • Workshops or one-on-one support for self-management training

  • Accountant or bookkeeping services

  • Funding for software applications to help manage your plan

How to change to self-management

Interested in beginning your journey in self-management? The majority of people who change their plans do so at their annual review. During this process, you will inform your Local Area Coordinator or Early Childhood Planner that you would like to make the change. Keep in mind too that you are able to request a review of your plan at any time.

Read more about how to claim a consumable purchase with the NDIS at Averee now.