Service Agreements with Participants: Provision of NDIS Supports

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Published: 27 July 2021

What is an NDIS Service Agreement?

A service agreement is a contract between a provider and an NDIS participant, which states the terms of the agreement between the two parties. Service agreements are covered under Australian Consumer Law (NDIA 2021).

If the participant wishes, another trusted person such as a family member, carer or friend can enter into the service agreement on the participant’s behalf (Disability Support Guide 2021).

Note that a service agreement is not the same as an NDIS support plan. While a support plan outlines the participant’s goals, a service agreement represents a negotiation between the provider and participant and sets out the specific services that the participant will receive (Disability Support Guide 2021).

Service agreements are not mandatory under the NDIS (unless the participant requires Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) supports) but are considered best-practice and have several benefits, including:

  • Protecting both the provider and participant from legal liability in the event that something goes wrong
  • Formalising the relationship between the provider and participant
  • Ensuring that the provider and participant have the same expectations
  • Ensuring that the terms of the agreement between the provider and participant are legally binding.

(Disability Support Guide 2021)

ndis service agreement participant shaking hands with provider staff

Service Agreements in the NDIS Practice Standards

Service agreements are a requirement of the NDIS Practice Standards under Core Module 3: Provision of Supports.

This Practice Standard aims to ensure that NDIS participants clearly understand what supports they have chosen and how they will be delivered (NDIS 2020a).

Service Agreement Quality Indicators

NDIS providers must meet the following quality indicators:

Development of the Service Agreement

The service agreement should be developed collaboratively between the provider and the participant to meet the participant’s individual circumstances, needs and preferences (WAAMH 2021). Broadly speaking, the service agreement should outline:

  • An explanation of the supports being delivered
  • The expectations of the provider and participant
  • Any conditions attached to the delivery of supports, and the rationale of these conditions.

(NDIS 2020a)

What Exactly Should a Service Agreement Include?

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) lists the following considerations to help providers and participants decide what should be included in their service agreement.

Note that this is not a template and is not intended to replace an actual agreement.

Consideration Examples
Supports being provided
  • The specific services and supports being provided
  • The way in which the services and supports will be provided
  • When and where the services and supports will be provided
    • What day and time?
    • Is it regular or one-off?
Costs
  • Costs of supports
  • Costs of materials and products
  • Costs of travel
  • Other fees and charges
  • Whether the participant needs to pay Goods and Services Tax (GST)
  • The method of payment
Provider and participant responsibilities
  • The provider’s cancellation policy
  • Actions that the provider and participant need to take before supports are provided
  • Actions that the provider and participant need to take if either party cannot meet their responsibilities
Service agreement
  • Format and language of the service agreement
    • Is it in a format and language that the participant can understand?
  • Duration of the service agreement
  • When the service agreement will be reviewed
  • How changes to the service agreement can occur
  • How the service agreement can be ended
Dispute resolution process
  • Actions the participant can take if they are unhappy with a situation or service
  • How the participant can raise issues or concerns
  • Who the participant can contact if an issue cannot be resolved or they have a complaint

(NDIS 2020b)

An interactive version of this list can be found on the NDIS website.

Inappropriate Service Agreements

The Office of the Public Advocate (2019) has identified the following areas of concern where service agreement provisions may be ‘onerous and unfair’:

  • Anti-competitive matters
  • Assignment
  • Complaints
  • Description of services
  • Financial
  • Improper signing of agreements
  • Indemnity and liability
  • Negotiations
  • Personal responsibilities.

More information about these areas of concern can be found in NDIS Service Agreements: Making Choice and Control More Real by the Office of the Public Advocate.

Understanding the Service Agreement

The participant should be supported to properly understand their service agreement. Providers should take into account:

  • The participant’s preferred language
  • The participant’s preferred method of communication
  • The participant’s preferred format of communication
  • Terms that the participant is most likely to understand.

(NDIS 2020a; WAAMH 2021)

Strategies for supporting the participant to understand their service agreement include:

  • Giving the participant enough time to understand the agreement and access any required supports
  • Answering the participant’s questions
  • Developing an easy-read version of the agreement for the participant
  • Engaging interpreters or translators if required.

(WAAMH 2021)

Providing a Copy of the Agreement

ndis service agreement participant reading copy

If the service agreement is set out in writing, the participant should receive a copy of the agreement that has been signed by both the provider and the participant (NDIS 2020a).

If it is not practical to provide the participant with a written copy, or the participant does not wish to receive a copy, the circumstances and reasons surrounding this decision should be documented in the participant’s records (WAAMH 2021).

Supported Independent Living (SIL) Support in Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA)

Note: This Quality Indicator is not relevant to every provider.

Providers that deliver supported independent living (SIL) support in specialist disability accommodation (SDA) settings should have a documented service agreement in place between the provider, the SDA provider and every participant receiving supports (WAAMH 2021).

The service agreement should outline the party responsible and their roles for the following matters:

  • The way in which participants’ concerns about the dwelling are communicated and addressed
  • The way in which conflicts involving participants are managed
  • The way in which changes to participant circumstances and/or support needs are agreed upon and communicated
  • The way in which vacancies will be filled in shared living settings, including participants’ rights to have their needs, preferences and situation taken into account during this process
  • The way in which behaviours of concern that may put tenancies at risk are managed, if applicable.

(NDIS 2020a)

Additional Resources


References

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