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SECTOR SPOTLIGHT: WHAT ARE THE HIDDEN RISKS OF USING UNREGISTERED PROVIDERS?

A few months ago, we looked at using unregistered providers in your NDIS Plan; you can read the article here if you haven’t already. This trend is growing with some definite perks (particularly regarding saving money!) However, the risks of this choice have only been highlighted recently, even grabbing the attention of the Disability Royal Commission.


What does unregistered mean?


With a plethora of information, rules, and regulations around the NDIS, it can be hard to understand what unregistered actually means and even harder to recognise when you’re plunged into the NDIS marketplace trying to find the right services and products for you or your loved one.


Put simply, Registered Providers (like CPSN) have been approved by The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to provide services and/or support to Plan-Managed, or NDIA Managed participants. Unregistered providers may not be registered with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS); they can provide support and services to self-managed and plan-managed participants.

Why do some providers prefer not to register?


Although registering your service might seem like an obvious approach, many are attracted to the idea of not registering for several reasons. Here are some examples of the benefits non-registered providers have highlighted:

  • Less paperwork, quicker start-up

  • No auditing or licence fees

  • Insurance is NOT mandatory

  • Can offer participants better prices as they don’t have to adhere to NDIS Price Guides

This last point highly appeals to participants who want to conserve their funding. However, by focusing on price, consumers forget to consider that there are inherent risks for them. The lack of structure within the unregistered market means that you may be exposed to providers who are not required to adhere to audits and, in turn, are often not covered for public liability.


For example, if a support worker is not insured for public liability, the consumer might be sued during an on-shift incident. It also does not ensure that your unregistered provider WON’T overcharge you, as incidents of this have been reported. Unregistered providers cannot necessarily provide the same level of access to services such as;

  • Specialist disability accommodation

  • Supports or services during which there is or is likely to be a need to use a regulated restrictive practice

  • Specialist behaviour supports that involve undertaking behaviour support assessment of the participant or developing a behaviour support plan for the participant.

The risks of inadequate screening are real


Last year, ABC News featured a story about an incident in which a 17-year-old girl with autism was sexually assaulted by her 28-year-old support worker.


The girl was not registered with the NDIS, and the incident only came to light after the support worker pleaded guilty to eight child sex offences relating to another client.

The support worker (Tomas Hopkins) had yet to go through the necessary background checks or working with children checks required with registered providers.


It’s important to note that since these checks are not mandatory with unregistered providers, the responsibility falls on service recipients to screen their workers properly.

Fewer safeguards, poorer compliance


While the NDIS attracts criticism for its stringent measures, poorer compliance can potentially create lower-quality services and, in some cases, increase the risk of abuse and neglect.


Instances of abuse and neglect have already been heavily documented by The Disability Royal Commission, with almost 8,000 submissions received since its establishment in April 2019.


The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission is instrumental in identifying fraudulent behaviour and abuses of power in collaboration with the Fraud Fusion Taskforce. But unregistered providers aren’t required to adhere to these safeguards and can potentially fall under the radar.

Unclear complaint process


While service recipients can complain against unregistered providers, since unregistered providers are less likely to have clear procedures, consumers are less likely to get a satisfactory outcome from making a complaint.


Since July 1st, 2019, The Disability Services Commissioner (DSC) can receive complaints about unregistered providers. In return, unregistered providers are required to;

  • adhere to the NDIS Code of Conduct

  • have a complaints process, and

  • consider doing a voluntary worker screening check

Despite this, unregistered disability service providers will not have to report incidents and will not be audited against disability practice standards. Several examples of complaints about unregistered providers are found on the DSC website.

How do you know you’re with a Registered Provider?


You can identify if the service is registered by looking for the registered provider logo (see the image attached). If you’re still unsure, call or email the provider directly.

Want to learn more about going with a registered provider?

Call CPSN on 03 9478 1001, or email cpsn@cpsn.org.au

This article first appeared on disabilitysupportworkers.org.au on Mar 17 2023

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