Service Bookings- What are they and why are they important for your child’s NDIS funds?
There is a lot of talk at the moment in our office about Service Bookings. It is usually discussed with some frustration and annoyance, it’s usually said as “Argh, this Service Booking isn’t working!!”, or “there aren’t enough funds in their Service Booking!!”. We are frustrated that there has been little to no explanation from the NDIS about what they are and why they are important for all parents to know about and be in control of their child’s Service Booking. So, let us try and break it down for you with some FAQ.
What is a Service Booking?
A Service Booking is an amount that is ‘set aside’ or “booked” in your child’s plan. Each service provider has to make a Service Booking or ‘book’ funds before they can claim for a service that has been provided. It was something that NDIS created to ensure all therapists that are providing therapy to your child have access to the allocated funds AND to ensure that one service doesn’t use up all the funds AND that the funds are distributed according the child’s goals and areas of need. For example, a child may be accessing speech pathology and occupational therapy and both need access to 20 hours, so each service makes a Service Boking for $3,511.40. Provided that there are enough funds in the child’s plan and provided that’s what the parents have agreed to.
Your service provider (Speechie, OT, Psyc, Phyiso etc) should be outlining the recommended Service Booking amount in the Service Agreement, which you sign with each new plan.
Good in theory, right? The trouble is that’s not what is happening. We have seen plans be reduced significantly in the last few months when children go in for the annual review. This has led to some services “booking” all the money without consulting the parents or other therapists. When all the funds are “booked” then this means that other services need to request for funds to be “released”. There is a two-week lag in this happening from when it is submitted to when funds can be accessed again. Sometimes this lag can be even longer. Or just to make it even more confusing NDIS themselves can make a Service Booking for any service and not tell them. Just today we had a booking made by NDIS for $5000 (which we didn’t request AND they didn’t tell us!) and we hadn’t touched this child’s service booking but no one could access funds. Hours spent by four different services to figure out where the funds were!
What does a Service Booking have to do with me, don’t all the therapist sort it out?
We can make the Service Booking via the NDIS portal. We make it once we have the plan or you have informed us of the available funds/ frequency of speech therapy you may want. And once you have agreed to the suggested amount in your signed Service Agreement.
But we need your help. We need parents to be aware of the amounts that the different therapists have recommended and we need parents to be aware if the funds allocated in their child’s plan will or will not allow for this. NDIS isn’t a never-ending pile of money. Once the money runs out, NDIS are very rarely granting additional funds. So there needs to be some forethought and planning at the beginning stage. Eg What are your child’s goals, what are the priorities for them? Can you do a term on with speech and a term off and swap with OT? Can you afford to do everything at once or does the services need to be staggered through the year? Is one therapist using travel time, is that eating into funds if the child can be seen in the clinic? Do you want your child to attend groups in the holidays? Have you budgeted for this? Sometimes this might mean meeting with a trusted therapist to help work out your goals or budget.
Can a service refuse to “release” funds?
No! The whole point of NDIS is for the participant to have “choice and control” over their funds and who they see and when. If your goals change or one service takes priority over another then the service bookings for all providers may have to change. For example, initially at the start of the year the parents agreed that speech would see their child weekly for the term, however the child starts experiencing behavioural challenges that need to be the focus. The parents can request that speech pathology stop for now and release funds so that behavioural therapy can start. Be wary of any service that refuses or claims that they need all the funds allocated. Disability is a team approach and every service needs to come together with the common goal of improving the child’s life, in all capacities.
So what can I do as the parent to help?
- Read your review reports from all therapists and make a tally of how much $ has been recommended by each therapist.
- Attend your NDIS plan review meeting, either via phone or in person and express the total that has been recommended from all therapists.
- Inform us as soon as you receive your new plan, please forward us a copy. Or if you chose not to show us the plan, which is your right, then please tell us ASAP if our recommended amount suggested in the review report is what you would like the Service Booking to be.
- Consult with all services involved to let them know the total amount and what you would like them to put as the Service Booking amount.
- If a service makes a Service Booking quickly without consulting and confirming if there are enough funds and over ‘books’ the money we need your help in consulting with the other services to release funds.
- Be aware that any changes to a service booking there is a two-week lag between the money being able to be accessed.
- Don’t panic if all the funds have been ‘booked’ – the funds are still there, they just need to be released. And that’s where your ‘choice and control’ comes in. We may not know about all the services you are accessing so that’s when you can speak to your child’s therapists to determine the priorities for your child.
- Act quickly. The longer you take in consulting the other services the longer the wait between appointments. We cannot hold your child’s appointment time indefinitely. The sooner you let us know, the sooner therapy can get started.
If you have any questions about your Service Booking, we are always happy to answer and help solve any problems. We pride ourselves on being an ethical, transparent company. We also collaborate with other services and find a team approach always has the best interests for your child. You can also call NDIS directly to ask them any questions, 1800 800 110.