Why you’re getting a letter from the NDIS soon

Posted 4 weeks ago by David McManus
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Did something arrive in your mail? [Source: Benjamin Crone via Shutterstock]
Did something arrive in your mail? [Source: Benjamin Crone via Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • The NDIS taskforce was developed following Recommendation 17 of the NDIS Review’s Final Report to ‘[…] deliver a risk-proportionate model for the visibility and regulation of all providers and workers and strengthen the regulatory response to long-standing and emerging quality and safeguards issues’
  • For information about your consumer rights or to make a report to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission please visit accc.gov.au

The National Disability Insurance Scheme taskforce is now at work to back participants who have been overcharged by ‘dodgy’ providers.

The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission will chair the taskforce, together with the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission and the National Disability Insurance Agency.

The NDIS Commission will tackle the illegal overcharging of NDIS participants. The ACCC will focus on investigating and clamping down on misleading conduct, unfair contract terms and anti-competitive agreements that might impact NDIS participants, while supporting the taskforce’s work.

Taskforce members have been chosen for their extensive breadth and depth of knowledge and expertise in the rights of people with disability, including key members such as disability rights lawyer and taskforce chair Natalie Wade, along with former President of National Disability Services Australia Vicki O’Halloran AO.

The government increased funding to the ACCC last year, announcing $6.7 million dollars to be invested over four years to ensure that they can support the NDIS Commission, as well as investigate and act against dodgy providers who make false or misleading representations about their products or services.

From this week, every NDIS participant, their carers, guardians and nominees, will receive a letter explaining their rights and how to fight back against the NDIS ‘wedding tax’ — where prices are increased just because someone is on the NDIS.

The ‘wedding tax’ comment was in reference to the fact that some merchants may charge more for a wedding cake than they would a regular cake for the same number of consumers, under the assumption that people will be inclined to splurge because it’s a celebration.

Minister Shorten said the new taskforce is part of a broader plan to close loopholes and defend the NDIS.

“The era of ripping off disabled people on the NDIS is over,” Minister Shorten said.

“Charging you more just because you are simply an NDIS participant is wrong and it is a breach of federal law. We have upgraded the NDIS rules to make it clear overcharging is prohibited and we have further legal changes coming to more strongly prohibit and punish such practices.”

The NDIS fraud fusion taskforce, established in 2022, reported that as of October 31, 2023:

  • the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission took 92 compliance actions against providers and individuals, including the issuing of 43 banning orders;
  • the FFT had investigated over 100 cases from 2022 – 2023, with over a billion dollars under review.

Those found in breach of this federal law could face severe action imposed by the NDIS Commission. Penalties include permanent banning, infringement and compliance notices, civil financial penalties and/or injunctions imposed and — where fraud is suspected, urgent referral to the fraud fusion taskforce for criminal sanctions against the provider found guilty of rip-offs.

“Participants and the disability sector have known about this problem for years,” Minister Shorten added.

“We finally have the legal powers to fix it with this taskforce and changes to the NDIS Code of Conduct. I know most service providers are doing the right thing, but there is a small minority of swindlers who are giving everyone a bad name”.

Assistant Minister Leigh said the work the ACCC will undertake with the NDIS Commission and the NDIA will be monumental to people with disability.

“The ACCC will remain a tough cop on the beat, with additional resourcing to take action against providers who breach the existing consumer protection laws,” Assistant Minister Leigh said.

“When you are on the NDIS you have a legal right to pay a fair and reasonable rate and not be a [sic] subjected to price hikes. You also have a right to not be pressured into buying a support or service you don’t want or need.”

President of People with Disability Australia and NDIS participant Marayke Jonkers welcomed the new protections and penalties for ‘dodgy’ operators.

“NDIS participants are not cash cows and we’re sick of being ripped off. We deserve to be safe and get value for money, just like any other consumer.

“These changes will help end the practice of charging us more for the same service simply because we’re on the NDIS while putting the onus on the providers to do the right thing,” she said.

Rob White from Alliance 20, a group of Australia’s largest service providers, said that long-established disability service providers work hard to improve the integrity of the NDIS for all participants.

“This action is another positive move towards strengthening the NDIS. We are committed to working together with the government and partner agencies to eliminate all rip-offs and safeguard the Scheme.”

Ability First chief executive Andrew Rowley said his organisation fully supports the taskforce.

“Our members have zero tolerance for fraud. We support the minister and the government stopping this fraudulent behaviour and defending NDIS participants from dodgy operators,” Mr Rowley said.

For those seeking to report fraudulent behaviour, they may be asked a series of questions by the fraud fusion taskforce, such as:

  • ‘Who are you making a report about?’
  • ‘What happened that you think might be fraudulent?’
  • ‘When did it happen and for how long?’
  • ‘Where did it occur?’
  • ‘Why does it seem suspicious?’
  • ‘How did you find out about it?’
  • ‘Who else have you reported this matter to?’

 

Did you receive a letter this week? Let the team at Talking Disability know and subscribe to the newsletter for more information, news and industry updates.

 

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