This is the fourth post in our confusion-clearing and myth-busting series about the NDIS. Thank you to everyone who’s provided feedback so far – keep it coming!
Here is another myth that has come through to us: People are being told that, if they choose self-management, they have to employ all their workers. Comments are also being made to people that make self-management seem the same as becoming an employer. Again, the implication here is that self-management is really hard work .
This is incorrect.
Yes, self-management offers flexibility in your funding to employ support workers yourself if that’s what you want to do. No, you don’t have to employ support workers yourself if that’s not what you want to do.
We’ve previously written about the practical benefits and current NDIS-related issues with self-managing your NDIS funds. In addition, you can also view information about self-management under the ‘Self-managing budgets in my NDIS plan’ module*.
Sometimes links to areas on the NDIA website don’t work as they should; the 404 error periodically appears when accessing information. If you’re having difficulty reaching any NDIA links we’ve posted in any of our blogs, please let us know. We’ve also contacted the NDIA about this, and we’ll let you know what’s going on when we find out.
Regarding self-management, every worker needs to be legally employed in Australia; they will either be employed by a service provider/you, or they will be self-employed.
There are three ways you can get the support staff you need, and we’ve added another. You’ll also find that the NDIA itself has published information about this, and we’ll point you in that direction as we go.
1) Employ people yourself (also known as “Direct Employment”)
If you choose this option, you do employ support workers yourself. This means you become an employer – which means you have some legal responsibilities.
More information about direct employment from the NDIA can be found at ‘Directly engaging my own staff’. ‘Mind the Gap: Disability Matters’ have also put out a great info sheet about direct employment that breaks the process down into manageable chunks, and explains each step of the direct employment process.
There are benefits to employing people yourself that make this option attractive to many people. One of the benefits is that you could make more savings between the rate that the NDIA pays, and the rate you pay your workers. This is because you don’t have to deal with ‘middle people’ – not because you pay workers less. These savings can mean that more direct support hours are available to you, or you possibly even have the option of hiring someone at a higher rate to do admin tasks (rostering, communicating with staff, organising team meetings, etc). This is just one of the ways that self-management (and plan-management, for that matter) offers more flexibility.
If you have Support Coordination funded in you NDIS Plan, you could also ask them to help you research information, and to link you in with people who have successfully self-managed their own NDIS funding. Alternatively, you may just want to learn more about this option to consider for your future NDIS plans.
InCharge has assisted people whose only experience of support workers was ‘being sent respite workers’ from a local agency. These people have subsequently explored, and taken up, direct employment of their own support staff. This is because we were able to support people through the process by moving through all the available options together, exploring the pros and cons of each, and then linking people in with information and resources.
What we can tell you is that if you do choose direct employment, although it can be daunting at the start, it is easy to maintain once you’ve got it up and going. But if you still don’t want to employ support workers directly, there are other ways you can self-manage your NDIS funds:
2) Using support workers who are self-employed (also known as ‘independent contractors’)
The NDIA have summed this one up perfectly:
“A contract support worker operates similarly to most gardeners, cleaners and tradespeople, and has their own ABN and insurance and will provide you with an invoice to be paid.”
What you see here are examples of workers who supply their services to more than one client – or have started a small business because they intend to supply services to a number of clients.
When contracting support workers, there are important considerations to take into account. It’s not always straightforward whether a worker is an employee or contractor – just because they have an ABN and charge by the hour, this doesn’t necessarily make them a contractor. The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has a great video and easy questionnaire that can help you work out (a) whether your worker is an employee or contractor, and (b) the legal and financial implications of both of these. Pearl Staffing Options QLD also provides some good information around the difference between employees and contractors.
If there’s anything you’re unsure about, it’s best to contact the ATO directly.
Using independent contractors can be a great option as well: The contractor might advertise their fees, and you can decide whether you think these fees are reasonable. Some contractors might be willing to negotiate their fees, and they won’t necessarily charge higher on weekends or of a nighttime.
One of the reasons people choose this option is because, like direct employment, there is no ‘middle person/organisation’ between you and the support worker – which means that you can potentially make savings on your funding with this option as well.
3) Through a support provider of your choice
Of course, you may still be able to find support workers through a service provider who has support workers ‘on their books’. In this case, the service provider is their employer.
The NDIA has said that:
“You can use any service provider you want to use. If a service provider or agency you want to use is registered with the NDIA, you can still self-manage your NDIS Budget and use their services.
In this instance, the registered service provider will provide you with an invoice to be paid rather than accessing your funds directly through the NDIS Portal.”
As with each option, this option has its pros and cons. The obvious advantage is that the support provider would take care of all the legal responsibilities of employment. In addition, they may also have a ready pool of support workers – and some providers may also be okay with employing people you find.
There are also new kinds of providers that also promote peer to peer connection.
The cons of this option are that, under the NDIS, the provider might claim the full NDIS payment rate from your NDIS Plan. This may mean you don’t make the savings we mentioned in the first two options that might enable you to get more support hours, etc. This may or may not be important to you. The provider may also have rules around using their workers – even ones you find – so it’s important that you have and understand a service agreement with said provider.
Finally, we wanted to touch on some of the new, online ways people are finding their support workers.
4) Connecting, searching and finding support workers online
Our fourth option is really to help you to understand some of the new, online platforms being developed. You can use any of these platforms when you self-manage your NDIS funds. New online platforms give you a pool of potential workers to look at and engage with, and these workers can be employed in the ways we’ve talked about in this post.
Newer online organisations such as HireUp (an employer) and Better Caring (a platform that connects you with self-employed workers) are essentially the Gumtree of disability services: People with disability and support workers can sign up, provide their details and effectively cut out the ‘middle man’ when choosing their own staff.
These are by no means the only choices. A quick online search comes up with other options as well, and we always encourage people to research and decide on what is a right fit for them.
There are also state-specific as well as national Facebook groups set up and run by peers for the same purpose, such as Australian People with Disabilities and Support Workers Connections and WA Families and Disability Support Workers Network.
Online organisations give people the flexibility of choosing their own staff while the organisation provides administrative support; whereas peer-run groups give people the opportunity to meet and hire people at a grassroots level. There are also groups of people who get together to share information about how and where to find good support – this is called Peer Support to Buy Support. Two organisations we’re aware of are VALID (Victoria) and CDAH (Newcastle, NSW). Again, we encourage you to do your own research and make the best decision for you.
SUMMARY: You can employ all your support workers yourself, but you don’t have to. There are three ways the NDIA suggests you can find staff, and we’ve suggested an extra way. You might also want a mix of employees and contractors.
What all this means is that, when you self-manage your funds, there are many ways you can get support while maximising your freedom.