The history and differences - LAC and ECEI Partners, Plan Management and Support Coordination
I often get asked, what’s the difference between Plan Managers, Support Coordinators, Local Area Coordinators (LAC) and Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) NDIA Partners.
To really understand this question, it’s helpful to understand how these services evolved during the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Prior to the NDIS, government provided a range of disability specific services including therapy support, early intervention services, respite, supported accommodation and case management.
NDIA Partners in the Community – ECEI and LAC
During the NDIS trial period from 2013 to 2016, the government placed a staffing cap on the NDIA (National Disability Insurance Agency who manages the NDIS), which restricted the number of government employees they could hire to run the Scheme. These caps were related to the financial sustainability of the Scheme and the need to create a marketplace where services could be developed based on demand to meet a participant’s disability specific support needs.
The NDIA overcame this challenge by creating collaborative working relationships with community service providers. Partners in the Community (PITC) are organisations who are contracted to and work directly with the NDIA to deliver the Scheme. The services they provide include helping people to understand and access the NDIS, developing a participant’s NDIS plan and helping them link to and access supports.
There are two types of PITC providers:
- Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) Coordinators who work with families and carers of children aged 0-6 years who have an NDIS plan; and
- Local Area Coordinators (LAC) who work with most NDIS participants, over 7 years of age, who have some capacity to understand and implement their NDIS plan.
Some of the work partners undertake mirrors that of NDIA Planners, but both also have roles in supporting plan implementation. It’s important to note that these roles are contracted by the NDIA – not funded through participant plans.
When Support Coordination is funded on a participant plan, the Support Coordinator is responsible for implementation support – not the partner. If Support Coordination isn’t funded on a participant’s plan, then the partner (LAC or ECEI) will provide a small amount of support to the participant to help them kickstart their plan.
How a participant’s plan is financially managed (plan management), will not be affected whether a participant is receiving implementation support from a Partner or from a Support Coordinator.
This is a service a participant can choose to be funded on their NDIS plan. This option is usually discussed with the participant by the NDIA Planner or Partner who conducts the planning/review meetings. A Plan Manager must be registered with the NDIS to provide this support to a participant.
The benefit of choosing a Plan Manager to manage a participant’s plan includes having:
- flexibility in choosing the service providers they want to be supported by. A participant can purchase services from both registered and non-registered NDIS providers; and
- direct contact with the organisation managing the financial aspect of their NDIS plan. A Plan Manager will pay service providers for the supports provided, keep track of the funds used and take care of the financial reporting.
The NDIA makes an assessment about whether support coordination is required when developing a participant’s NDIS plan. The type of support coordination funded will depend on the complexity of the participant’s situation, the impact of a person’s disability and whether this limits their ability to implement their NDIS plan.
Support Coordination has a strong capacity building focus. This includes supporting a participant to:
- understand the NDIS environment including how the funding works and their rights to reviews;
- develop creative solutions using community, mainstream and funded services to achieve their goals; and
- build their skills, develop their capacity and resilience to manage challenging situations.
At this stage, the NDIA has not explicitly stated that a service provider needs to be registered with the NDIS to provide this support to a participant.
During the initial transition of the NDIS across the country, a high percentage of participants chose the NDIA to financially manage their NDIS plan. This meant they could only use a registered Support Coordination service provider to help them implement their plan.
However, as the NDIS continues to transition in, we are seeing an increase in the number of non-registered support coordination service providers. This is due to participants being more informed about the flexibility of being able to choose both registered and non-registered NDIS service providers, if they request funding for a Plan Manager to financially manage their plan.
The Plan Management segment of the market is growing quickly both in terms of registered providers and the annual dollar value of the support they provide to participants. The NDIA have actively encouraged this growth as plan management is seen as a more flexible option for participants, and one which can be more effective in creating supply in locations where there are few NDIS registered providers.
It will be interesting to see how these trends evolve as the NDIS continues to transition in across the country. There is speculation the NDIA are developing a framework to provide guidance around the provision of Plan Management and Support Coordination services.
This would go a long way in providing clarity around the scope of each of these roles, and the quality of service a participant should expect when choosing these services.