NEWCASTLE Meals on Wheels general manager Damien Isaacs says he is not accusing his competitors of rorting the NDIS.
But he is saying that NDIS pricing schedules are being applied inconsistently and that some of his competitors are using NDIS delivery fees to cross-subsidise the price of their meals, meaning that Meals on Wheels is finding it hard to compete in Newcastle, the Central Coast and Sydney.
At the heart of his concern is differing advice over how much Meals on Wheels can charge to deliver seven days’ worth of food.
Mr Isaacs said Meals on Wheels was told it could only charge $11.61 for a single delivery of seven meals.
But he said he was losing NDIS clients to competitors who were charging the NDIS the $11.61 for every meal delivered, allowing them to charge as little as $3 a meal, or almost half the price of some Meals on Wheels offerings.
The NDIS told the Newcastle Herald: “Food is a daily living expense, and as such is not funded by NDIS supports.
“Food delivery however, where appropriate and identified as reasonable and necessary in a participant’s plan, can be funded by the NDIS.”
Mr Isaacs said NDIS participants had told him they were moving to competitors because the out-of-pocket cost was cheaper, even though they knew the provider was taking more out of their NDIS package for delivery.
“I don’t really want to get into the philosophy of this but there is a perception that NDIS plan money is not thought of in the same way as direct cash,” Mr Isaacs said.
He said Newcastle Meals on Wheels had about 800 clients including about 40 on the NDIS. He said the organisation would be financially better off out of the NDIS but it was committed to looking after the most vulnerable people in the community.
“What I do want is a level playing field, a fair and competitive market place so that everyone is charging the same way,” Mr Isaacs said. “I have tried to raise this with the NDIS since October but we have heard nothing back.
“What we need is for them to have a quick, simple review of the situation and then to publicise the result, so that we all know the exact amount that can be charged, and whether it is per meal or per delivery.”
The Herald sent detailed questions to the National Disability Insurance Agency, which runs the NDIS, but it replied in general terms without addressing its claimed lack of response to Meals on Wheels.
“The providers who offer food delivery services can quote and charge up to the price in the NDIS pricing guide,” NDIA said. “As such, costs may vary, depending on the number of meals prepared and the number of deliveries required.”
The peak body for disability providers, National Disability Services, endorsed the concerns of Newcastle Meals on Wheels.
Its chief executive, Ken Baker, said his organisation’s State of the Disability Sector report released in December found that 68% of disability service providers were worried they would be unable to provide services at the prices being offered under the NDIS.
He said the other two main problems were inconsistent NDIS plans for individuals and delays in payments for services already provided.
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