Australia

Disability services baulk at high costs

Many allied health professionals will soon be de-registering from the NDIS. (AAP)

The high cost of complying with the National Disability Insurance Scheme is putting many small businesses off taking part in the scheme.

Many allied health professionals will soon be de-registering from the National Disability Insurance Scheme due to the high costs associated with its new compliance system.

Upon de-registering, they will no longer be able to provide services for NDIS participants whose funding is managed by the National Disability Insurance Agency.

"It's not necessary; at best it's an insult, but at worst it's making (providers) not be able to continue," business owner Jane Beale said.

Ms Beale manages her husband's physiotherapy practice, and also runs a speech pathology business in the Hunter Valley and Central Coast of NSW.

Last year, the NDIS Commission began rolling out its compliance and enforcement policy in South Australia and NSW, requiring registered NDIS providers to complete an audit to maintain their registration.

The system has two pathways - a lighter pathway called 'Verification' for sole traders offering low-risk supports, and a more complex pathway called 'Certification'.

If they operate as a company rather than a sole trader, businesses providing low-risk supports - such as physiotherapy and speech therapy - are required to complete the more complex 'Certification' pathway, even if they only have a small number of staff and clients.

According to data collected from National Disability Services - the peak body for non-government services - the average cost of the Certification pathway for small-medium businesses is $6000 to $14,000 for the initial audit, and half of that again for surveillance audits in the following two years.

For Ms Beale's physiotherapy business, which has only five clients on the NDIS, it will need to pay $5600 in its first year, which is an expense she and her husband can't afford.

Although Ms Beale will de-register her husband's physiotherapy business, she will continue to renew the registration for her speech pathology business.

Out of concern for her client base of approximately 500 NDIS participants with funding managed by the NDIA, she feels she has no choice but to renew her registration.

"I feel like I have to because I have about 80 employees," said Ms Beale. "If I don't go ahead, it's such an impact on them, so I feel a little bit backed into a corner."

Ms Beale has not completed the renewal process for her registration, and has not been provided with a quote yet, but expects the figure to be at least 10 times that of her physiotherapy business.

NDIS participants who self-manage their NDIS supports and services won't be impacted by this new system.

The NDIS Commission was formed last year to ensure a nationally consistent approach to safety and quality of services within the NDIS.

An NDIS Commission spokesperson told AAP it was monitoring audit costs, advising auditors and talking to providers who have been through the process.

"The NDIS Commission has issued guidance to registered providers on how to engage with auditors to get the best value for their situation," the spokesperson said.

"Where providers have concerns they are encouraged to contact the NDIS Commission."

A grants program is open to fund the development and delivery of tools and resources to support NDIS service providers.

On July 1, 2018, 9700 providers transitioned to the new NDIS Commission arrangements in NSW and SA.

About 40 per cent of these providers are not active in the NDIS market, the commission said.

"The NDIS Commission expects that providers who do not intend to operate in the NDIS will not renew their registration with the NDIS Commission."

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