Plan Management: much more than just invoice processing
29 Sep 2021
Half of all NDIS participants have a Plan Manager these days. But there’s more to Plan Management than just quick invoice payments and digital budget tracking.
If you ask many families and support coordinators in the NDIS: “What is a Plan Manager?” They might respond that Plan Managers are NDIS bookkeepers. They might explain that they take care of payments, budgeting and paperwork. And they are right in one sense.
They will explain, correctly that the Plan Manager’s role is to:
Pay the invoices for therapists and service providers for you (no need to waste time with invoices)
Manage your funding
Keep track of your spending (so you don’t spend too much or too little)
Understand the NDIS funding rules
Increase your choice of providers (you can use non-registered providers like a local uni student or cleaner)
The problem is, that means Plan Management gets described more in terms of what the Plan Managers do rather than how they support the participant. There is no real mention of assisting people to become more independent, or empowering them to take control, or helping them make their own decisions to live their best life.
So it’s easy to just narrow the role to be one of passive invoice payments, with some budgeting support.
Let’s consider a scenario. Imagine a mother decides that her grown up son with autism, who is in the NDIS and has a Plan Manager, is old enough to start taking control of his plan. He is ready to have more control and choice in his hands. It’s time for him to know how his plan works, understand what the funding can be used for, and be empowered to decide how he wants to spend the money and manage his budget.
Can the Plan Managers help him take control of what has always been his plan? If they are just processing and budgeting, it’s hard to see any other outcome than the mother remaining the main or only point of contact, where she continues to look after all of this with the Plan Manager.
So what could the vision of Plan Management be in line with the goals of the NDIS? The vision for Plan Management can actually be found by taking a closer look at an NDIS plan. Plan Management sits in a funding category under capacity building. That’s not an accident, it’s because Plan Managers are meant to build the capacity and confidence of participants to take on the world of NDIS funding.
The NDIS even went further with this vision. They created a special service item for plan managers called “Capacity Building and Training in Plan and Financial Management by a Plan Manager,” which outlines the role of the Plan Manager to build the capacity of the participant to financially manage their plan, to develop the skills for self management. This line item may be the most under-utilised line item in the entire NDIS. Because there are very few Plan Managers who see their role as skill and capacity builders.
So what does Plan Management look like at its best? They are more than just passive invoice processors with a nice online dashboard. The best Plan Managers:
Understand your personal situation
Guide your spending choices
Build your budgeting skills
Give you confidence to self-manage your funding
The best Plan Managers empower you. They help you make sense of a scheme that even some of the most seasoned experts find overwhelmingly complex and hard to grasp. Amidst all the changes to the NDIS, a good Plan Manager will stay on top of every change, so that you fully understand what your funding can do for you – and get better at charting your own course of life with a disability.
Plan Management will only be truly part of the vision of the scheme when Plan Managers can help transition from the mother looking after her son’s plan to the son taking more ownership over it, feeling confident, and having the ability to learn to manage his own funds. A good Plan Manager will be there when you need them. But you may find that after a while, you’ll also be able to do more on your own.
Still learning the basics of Plan Management? We have put together a handy guideto help you understand what Plan Management is and whether it’s the right choice for you.