If you’ve come across the term ‘service agreement’ in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), you may be wondering what it means. Or perhaps you know what a service agreement is, but want to know if you really need one.
In a nutshell, written service agreements are there to help set expectations between you and your provider. Ultimately they can help your provider to best support you to achieve your goals.
We’ll answer your questions about service agreements so you can make an informed decision about whether you want to use them.
What is a service agreement?
A service agreement is a written contract between you and your service provider. A service provider is an individual or organisation that provides a support or service to a participant of the NDIS (such as an allied health provider, support coordinator or Assistive Technology supplier). It outlines what you can expect from them, and what they can expect from you. It’s separate from your NDIS plan.
Being on the same page about what supports will be delivered, and how they will be delivered, is really important. A service agreement is one way to achieve this.
How do you know if you need a service agreement?
There’s quite a few benefits to using service agreements, including:
- They provide security for both you and your provider
- You can refer to them later if you’re unsure about your provider’s responsibilities, or your own
- They can protect you from liability in case anything with your provider goes wrong
- They are legally binding and covered by Australian Consumer Law
- They formalise your relationship with your provider
The choice of whether to use service agreements is yours, but it’s worth considering how they might help you.
Are service agreements mandatory?
While service agreements are not compulsory (except for Specialist Disability Accommodation supports), they are highly recommended by the NDIA. The NDIS recommends them as a way for participants and providers to get clear on what they have agreed to.
What should be in the service agreement?
Service agreements should be fairly simple, outlining what supports will be delivered and how much they will cost.
A service agreement is a negotiation between you and your provider. When negotiating, you should understand:
- What supports will be provided
- What these supports will cost
- The responsibilities of your provider
- Your responsibilities
- How long the agreement will last and how you can change or cancel it
- The dispute resolution processes if you’re unhappy with the services
- The provider’s cancellation policy
- When the service agreement will be reviewed
Within the service agreement should be:
- Start and end date of the agreement
- Information about the types of supports you’ll be receiving
- A timeframe for paying invoices
- A cancellation notice period for bookings
- Terms for cancelling or changing the service agreement
- A process for handling problems or complaints
How do you go about making a service agreement?
You will work with your provider to create a service agreement. Many providers will have their own service agreement templates they will use as a starting point. From there, they should develop and refine it in partnership with you.
Make sure you understand and are happy with what’s in the service agreement before signing it. You don’t actually have to sign the agreement if you don’t want to, and services can still commence even if you don’t sign it.
How do I use my service agreement?
Once you and your provider have agreed on the service agreement, you can start working toward your goals with them.
Keep a copy of your service agreement for your records (either a physical or electronic copy, or both). If you have a Plan Manager or Support Coordinator, send a copy to them - it will help them stay up to date with the services you’re receiving.
How do I change my service agreement?
If you need to change the supports you receive, you may need to change your service agreement. Your provider may agree to make these changes to the current service agreement, or they may make a new service agreement with you.
It’s likely you’ll need to give your service provider time to make these changes (this is called a ‘notice period’, and you can find it in the service agreement).
Once you and your provider have agreed to the changes, you may need to edit your service booking details in the myplace portal, or your provider might do this for you.
What should I do if my service agreement is expiring?
It’s a good idea to keep track of your service agreements and when they expire. They’re usually for a set amount of time, for example 6 months or 10 visits. Talk to your provider before that time to discuss whether you want to continue with your current supports or make changes.
It’s also helpful to use this time to think about how these supports or services are helping you to work toward your goals.
What if I need help with this?
A service agreement should not be a very long document that’s difficult to read. If it is, ask for an easy to read version in plain English. If that’s not possible, have someone you trust help you understand the document.
You could also ask your support coordinator or local area coordinator (LAC) to help, or contact the NDIA or NDIS Commission. It’s reassuring to know that no service agreement can override the NDIS Code of Conduct.
The most important thing to remember is that service agreements are there to help create a positive relationship between you and your provider. They can help give you choice and control over your provider relationships and support you to achieve your goals.
Interested in learning more?
If you want to learn more about allied health providers (one type of NDIS service provider), you can check out this guide to NDIS allied health providers and what they do.
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