We’ve been looking for a way to support you at this very uncertain time without adding to the noise. There is so much information about COVID 19 – and too little. Things seem to change so quickly, yet too slowly. Please use trusted information sources (such as government websites) to keep up to date. In this blog we discuss:
- What can NDIS Providers do now?
- What Help is available?
- What about Audits?
WHAT CAN NDIS PROVIDERS DO NOW?
You have the authority to act – manage risk
You have the authority to determine when it’s safe and viable to deliver your supports. It’s in the NDIS Practice Standards and hasn’t changed with COVID 19. It’s about identifying and treating all relevant risks to participants, staff, the community and your business. Whatever your risk management measures you take, be sure your decisions are based on reliable information. Record your decision-making process and your reasons for the actions you take – and be sure to report properly. There are some current risk management issues and things you can do to minimise risk. These include:
- Continuity planning:
- Clearly define roles and responsibilities
- Map roles against require qualifications (avoid substituting with unqualified or unscreened staff)
- Develop documented plans to fill roles with appropriately trained, experienced and screened workers as needed.
- Determine the conditions under which you won’t be able to deliver critical services. Plan what to do as you reach that point to ensure continuity for participants. (The NDIS Commission is working with states to assist with higher-risk supports as needed)
- Reach out to your local provider network to discuss pooling staff and resources.
- Ensure supplies of critical materials are available.
- Continuity of supports planning also includes:
- communication with staff and participants
- ensuring participant risk assessments, support plans, emergency plans, contact details, medication lists etc. are up to date
- Staff and participant safety. Ensure that staff are:
- kept informed
- trained in infection control
- practicing the advised measures
- Information security: As services do more work online, risks to information security increase. See this resource from Infoxchange: https://www.infoxchange.org/au/news/2020/03/key-cyber-security-measures-not-profits-should-implement-during-coronavirus-crisis
- Financial risk:
- Check your cashflow and projected income and expenditure
- Ensure you stay informed about the Federal Government’s stimulus packages and the additional financial assistance being provided by the NDIA.
Reliable sources of data for NDIS Providers include:
- The central information page for the NDIS Commission https://www.ndiscommission.gov.au/resources/coronavirus-covid-19-information
- The NDIS Disaster Response page: https://www.ndis.gov.au/understanding/ndis-and-other-government-services/ndis-and-disaster-response
- Registered providers will have received updates from the NDIS Commission, outlining the key compliance issues and information sources for NDIS Providers. You can see this here.
- The Department of Health website: https://www.health.gov.au/
- National Coronavirus Health Information Line: 1800 020 080
- Information and resources for NDIS providers and disability support workers are available through the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission at www.ndiscommission.gov.au or 1800 035 544.
Record and Report
You will no doubt have to make some tough decisions.
- Notify the NDIS Commission of any changes that:
- significantly affects your ability to comply with your conditions of registration and the NDIS Practice Standards
- seriously impairs your ability to effectively conduct your operations and deliver ongoing supports or services to NDIS participants
- adversely affects a person with disability’s access to the supports or services you are registered to provide.
- The NDIS Commission has created an online form for reporting service-delivery changes due to COVID-19, available here.
- Communicate with participants and record their agreement to any changes in service delivery. If talking with participants over the phone, note this alongside the consent.
- Record your decision-making process and reasons for taking actions.
WHAT HELP IS AVAILABLE?
Help from the NDIS
On 21 March the Federal Government announced new measures to support NDIS participants and providers.
For participants, this will include:
- NDIS plans to be extended by up to 24 months, ensuring continuity of support and increasing capacity of NDIA staff to focus on urgent and required changes to plans.
- Face to face planning shifted to telephone meetings where possible.
- Action plan to ensure NDIS participants and their families continue to receive the essential disability supports they need.
- Proactive outreach to high-risk participants and sharing of data with states and territories to ensure continuity of supports.
For providers, this will include:
- One-month advance payment to registered providers to give them immediate cash flow relief (based on a monthly average of supports delivered in the previous 3 month period)
- A 10% ‘COVID-19 loading’ for up to 6 months on price limits for:
- Assistance with daily life (excluding Supported Independent Living)
- Assistance with Social and Community Participation
- Improved daily living
- Allowing providers to charge 100% for cancellations
- Broadening the definition of a ‘Short Notice Cancellation’ (detail is yet to be provided)
See more information here: https://www.ndis.gov.au/understanding/ndis-and-other-government-services/ndis-and-disaster-response
And the Ministers’ announcement here: https://ministers.dss.gov.au/media-releases/5661?fbclid=IwAR0zkj1ReGlkoY_MBWpIwO_PorpxxtLGdTfcG4F7hNQZTFM3QtyPhgvGjrU
Infection Control Resources
Information and training courses relating to infection control have been made available by the Department of Health – you can access them here: https://www.health.gov.au/
COVID-19 Infection Control Training – https://covid-19training.gov.au/
The Council for Intellectual Disability has developed easy read information for participants and can be accessed here: https://cid.org.au/resources/
The Department of Health has developed a free training module for support workers, including disability service providers, about infection prevention and control for COVID-19, available at https://covid-19training.gov.au/
The Department has also developed a webinar on COVID-19 preparedness for in-home and community aged care. This webinar (https://publish.viostream.com/app/s-n3f4rpt) is also relevant to all providers and workers in the disability sector.
Federal Small Business Stimulus Package
The Federal Government has also released a stimulus package, targeting small business owners. For many of you, this support may be crucial in to support your viability. Stay up to date on these measures! Get in touch with your accountant and see what this means for your business.
WHAT ABOUT AUDITS?
Currently, several auditing companies are saying that audits will go ahead. There may be changes in the way that the audit is done – e.g., Stage 2 onsite audits might be conducted offsite. If so, this may cause information security issues. Consult with your auditing company about de-identifying participant documents etc..
If you have an audit booked and are in doubt of what arrangements are in place, please contact your auditing company.
Of course, the situation is changing rapidly and it is important to stay informed about the situation and the government’s response. This information was current on 23 February, 2020. We would like to wish you, your families and clients all the best as we all navigate the situation, and as always, we’re here to help as we can.