The VALID advocacy team receives calls every day from people with questions about Service Agreements. So, we’ve put together some answers to a few of our most frequently asked questions to clear up the confusion.
What is a Service Agreement anyway?
A Service Agreement is any agreement that you make about services you want from any kind of business or organisation. An agreement doesn’t have to be in a particular format, and it doesn’t even have to be in writing. For example, if you have a leaky tap, you call in a plumber, you make a verbal agreement on the cost and the job goes ahead – that’s a basic service agreement but it doesn’t require a written contract.
When you buy services with NDIS funding, you’ll need to agree with the service on what will be provided and how much it will cost. The agreement you make doesn’t have to be in writing, but it’s helpful to have written agreement to go back to in case there are problems later. The written agreement might be a few emails between you and the service, or it might be a formal Service Agreement written up by the service. Either way, a service shouldn’t dictate everything about the agreement – it is supposed to be an agreement that everyone involved thinks is right.
Do I need to sign a Service Agreement before I can get services with my NDIS funding?
No. The NDIS recommends that participants have a Service Agreement with organisations they are buying services from, but Service Agreements are still optional. If you want a written Service Agreement, you don’t necessarily need to sign it for it be valid (especially if you’re unable to sign because of your disabilities). If you don’t have a Service Agreement, you are still protected by Australian Consumer Law which covers what services can and cannot do in any situation.
What if I don’t understand the Service Agreement?
You should not sign any agreement if you do not fully understand what it all means. You have the right to have the Service Agreement in a language and format that you understand. You can also get help from family, friends, your Support Coordinator, Local Area Coordinator or an advocate to understand the agreement.
Who can sign a Service Agreement?
If the NDIS participant is an adult, and they can’t sign because they don’t understand the Service Agreement even after all efforts have been made to help the person understand, only two other parties can sign on their behalf
- A person officially appointed in writing as NDIS Plan Nominee (Correspondence Nominees cannot sign Service Agreements)
- A VCAT-appointed Guardian can sign a Service Agreement if they have approval to make decisions about access to services (VCAT appointed Administrators cannot sign Service Agreements)
A parent can sign a Service Agreement on behalf of their child if they are under the age of 18.
Anyone signing a Service Agreement needs to understand and be able to comply with the terms in the document. If you are signing a standard agreement on behalf of someone else, you might not always be able to stick to it. For example, the agreement might say that you have to pay from your own income if the NDIS won’t pay the bill the service sends. Or, it might say that you have to show respect to the service staff at all times which is impossible if you’re not the one receiving the service. You can ask the service to remove items in the agreement that you can’t do or that the NDIS participant themselves can’t reasonably do. You can also ask the service to add things in that are important to you.
What if I need more help with Service Agreements?
The NDIS has information about Service Agreements on their website so that you can learn more about how it all works. You can also contact a disability advocacy service, your local Community Legal Centre, or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for more information.
You can call VALID to speak with an advocate on 03 9416 4003 or email our Duty Intake Advocate at [email protected]