Registered vs. unregistered NDIS providers: what are the differences?

Acacia Plan Management registered vs unregistered providers
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We are often asked whether it is better for an NDIS participant to deal with a registered or not registered provider.  Equally, our providers also question whether they should register with the NDIS or remain unregistered.  This article will explain the pros and cons of both options and if you’re a provider, may help you decide which option is best for you.

Registered providers commit to practise and uphold the quality standards set out by the NDIS and can also offer some services that unregistered providers cannot.  While becoming NDIS-registered can provide more opportunities to meet new customers and improve your service quality and reputation, there are some obstacles to consider.

Firstly, let’s explain what a registered provider is and what it means to NDIS participants.

Providers are businesses or individuals that supply NDIS participants with products and services that help them to achieve their NDIS goals. They can be support workers, gardeners, occupational therapists, physios, cleaners and much more.

An organisation or individual can apply to be a registered NDIS provider with the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission. Registered providers must meet the NDIS Practice Standards that create an important benchmark to assess performance and demonstrate that providers deliver high quality and safe supports and services to NDIS participants.

As mentioned earlier, registered providers can deliver some services that unregistered providers can’t.  These exclusive services are plan management, Specialist Disability Accommodation, Supported Independent Living, behaviour support or behaviour management planning and supports that involve restrictive practices (e.g. physical restraint).

What are the differences between a registered and unregistered provider?

The main difference between being registered and unregistered is the different legal status they have when it comes to the NDIA and the supports and services they provide to NDIS participants. Providers who are registered with the NDIA must follow specific NDIS rules and regulations. Although providers who are unregistered are not held to the same legal status as registered providers, it is recommended that they adhere to the rules and regulations that help to ensure participants have choice and control over their NDIS plan and supports.

However, all registered and unregistered NDIS providers and their workers must comply with the NDIS Code of Conduct which promotes the health, safety and wellbeing of persons with disability, by setting out acceptable, appropriate and ethical conduct for NDIS providers and workers delivering supports or services in the NDIS sector.

Why you may choose to register for the NDIS

  • Participants who choose plan management or self management of their NDIS plans can choose to use the services of both registered and unregistered providers, while those who are NDIA agency managed are limited to receiving supports from registered providers.

    Being restricted to using only one provider pool may limit choice and control, especially if there are no suitable registered supports in a participant’s area, if registered providers are at capacity and unable to accept new clients, or if they don’t have a great rapport with the providers available.

    Registering for the NDIS opens your business’ door to a wider base of customers, including the thousands of participants who are exclusively agency managed.

  • Registered providers are verified by the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission and bound by the NDIS Practice Standards, which means they are heavily regulated, need to comply with NDIA requirements and provide verified, quality services.

  • The NDIS Code of Conduct applies to any organisation that has NDIS participants whether they are NDIS registered or not. Registration can provide assurance that the provider’s services and supports meet a defined level of quality and safety standards which can have a positive impact on perceptions of your brand and service.

  • NDIS registered providers are typically more frequently used.

  • Registered providers are listed on the NDIS Provider Register, which may help raise awareness of your business and create opportunities in the market. When you are NDIS registered, you can use the NDIS registered logo on your website and marketing, which provides confidence and certainty for potential new clients.

  • Participants looking for new service providers may perceive NDIS registered providers to be a less risky option. However, it’s the quality of your service and where you’re located or willing to travel to that may work in your favour in addition to value for money pricing.

  • Providers that offer a quality, accessible service at prices within the NDIS proce guide limits makes for a very attractive option.

Why you may choose not to register for the NDIS

  • Submitting an NDIS provider registration application is free. However, you’ll be responsible for the cost of procuring an audit against the applicable NDIS Practice Standards, which is a long and expensive process.

  • This is often a barrier for small businesses, so they don’t bother to register – even though they may have the credentials to provide a high quality service that suits their clients and is completely covered by the Scheme.

  • Plan management and self management are the top choices for NDIS funds management, meaning there are lots of NDIS clients you can support, even if you don’t seek registration.

  • Some participants like having the option of being able to use small, local providers that are often unregistered. Because unregistered providers tend to be smaller businesses that are trying to grow their market share and retain their own processes, they are often in a position to provide cost lower service fees, more flexibility and improved service quality.

    Unregistered provider services often equate to more flexible shift times and increased choice.

  • The option of using unregistered providers supports NDIS participants to exercise greater choice and control, which may validate the decision to remain unregistered.

Making the choice

The final decision about whether to become a registered provider or remain unregistered comes down to what works best for you and your business, whether the application process and cost is worth it in the long-term and whether the benefits outweigh the downsides.