Registered vs. unregistered NDIS providers: What’s the difference?

Last updated

Keen to know the difference between unregistered and registered NDIS disability service providers? Read on! (Source: Shutterstock)

Once you have received your National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan, and have decided how you would like to manage your plan, it’s time to choose which providers you’d like to deliver the services that will help you reach your goals.

Key points:

  • It takes time and money for service providers to become registered with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), so some chose not to, making them ‘unregistered’ providers.
  • Being unregistered does not directly relate to a service provider’s professionalism or quality of supports.
  • Which type of providers you can use depends on how you choose to manage your plan.

During your research you may notice that there are both ‘registered’ and ‘unregistered’ providers when it comes to accessing NDIS disability supports. So, what do these terms mean and how do they affect your NDIS journey?

The information below will help you understand the pros and cons of each so you can choose what providers best suit your needs.

What is a service provider?

Service providers are businesses or individuals who deliver specific disability services or therapies.

There are many different types of providers. Some are large companies, others are small, family-run businesses or sole traders. Examples of service providers include:

  • Physiotherapists
  • Disability support workers
  • Wheelchair manufacturers
  • Occupational therapists
  • Support coordinators

What does NDIS registered mean?

A NDIS registered service provider is a provider that has registered its services and has been approved by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to deliver NDIS funded services.

The NDIA asks service providers to register with the NDIS, however not all providers do.

To register, providers must meet certain criteria, such as the NDIS Price Guide, and follow specific rules, regulations and agreements when providing services. NDIS registration can be a lengthy and costly process, and because of this some businesses choose to stay unregistered.

You can choose to use both registered and unregistered providers for any supports or services funded through your NDIS plan if you are self-managed or plan-managed. If you are agency-managed (sometimes called NDIA-managed), you can only use registered providers.

Registered providers can deliver some services that unregistered providers can’t, including Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA), Plan Management, behaviour support or behaviour management plans, as well as supports that involve any restrictive practices.

Benefits of choosing a registered provider:

  • The provider has been through the registration process and meets NDIA guidelines
  • They are fully recognised as a provider committing to a certain quality standard
  • Invoices are sent directly to your NDIS portal
  • Registered providers must adhere to price caps set by the NDIA
  • They can deliver certain services that unregistered providers can’t

Possible cons of using registered providers:

  • If you are agency-managed but there are no relevant registered providers in your area, you may have to travel to find one. For example, if you need an occupational therapist but there are none registered in your area, you might need to travel a long way to access this support. Or, the local registered occupational therapist might be at capacity and not currently taking on new clients.

What is an unregistered provider?

An unregistered service provider has chosen not to complete the NDIS approval process, though can still offer a valid service to participants.

Don’t be put off by the term ‘unregistered’ when it comes to choosing supports. Unregistered providers can still provide NDIS-funded supports, and have the necessary skills and resources to provide high-quality services to people with disability.

Unregistered providers and their workers are still required to adhere to the NDIS Code of Conduct. The NDIS Commission Enforcement and Compliance Policy also applies to unregistered providers, and anyone can make a complaint to the Commission about a provider or worker regardless of registration status.

Unregistered providers working with self-managing participants are free to set their prices. You will only be able to claim the price the NDIS has set for the service in its price guide on your plan. You will need to pay any cost above and beyond that rate out of your own pocket.

Benefits of choosing an unregistered disability service provider:

  • You are free to choose whichever provider you’d like to deliver your services
  • There is a larger network of providers to choose from
  • The ability to continue working with a provider you previously used, who is unregistered, when you transition onto the NDIS

Possible cons of using unregistered disability service providers:

  • If you self-manage your NDIS funding using unregistered providers may result in more paperwork. Providers will send invoices directly to you which you have to manually claim back through the NDIS portal
  • They do not have to adhere to the quality and safeguards requirements of the NDIS Commission. For example, they do not need to conduct audits to show they are compliant with these requirements

The difference between registered and unregistered disability service providers

To summarise, the main differences between registered and unregistered providers are:

  • Unregistered providers working with self-managing participants are free to set their prices, whereas registered providers must adhere to the NDIS price caps
  • You can access unregistered providers only when you have a plan-managed or self-managed NDIS plan. On the other hand, if you are agency-managed, you only have access to registered NDIS providers
  • If you self-manage your NDIS plan, unregistered providers will send their invoices to you to pay and you will then have to manually claim the funds back from the NDIS using the NDIS portal – but if you’re plan managed, your NDIS plan manager does this for you
  • Registered providers can deliver some services that unregistered providers can’t, including Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA), Plan Management, behaviour support or behaviour management plans, as well as supports that involve any restrictive practices

As a NDIS participant, you have a lot of choice and control over who delivers your services. There are many positives to using either registered or unregistered providers and, if you are plan or self-managed, you have the freedom to choose a mixture of both.

Do you use registered, unregistered providers, or both? Share your experiences in the comments.

Subscribe to the Talking Disability newsletter for more information, news and industry updates.

Article originally published 05/02/2021 by author Emily Erickson.

Related content:
Choosing how to manage your NDIS funding
Understanding NDIS pricing
NDIS service agreements: What are they and do I need one?