The relationship between an NDIS participant and their provider is one built upon trust.
When receiving care from an external party, participants are putting themselves into a vulnerable position. As well as having to trust that the provider will deliver adequate, appropriate and safe care, the participant may also need to trust the provider to respect their money, property and privacy.
This is especially true for participants receiving care in their homes and who require a high level of day-to-day personal care and assistance for activities of daily living.
However, appropriately managing participants’ finances and property means more than simply refraining from acts of caregiver theft. As an intruder into the participant’s personal space and life, you must actively ensure they feel secure and can maintain autonomy regarding their assets.
Participant Money and Property NDIS Quality Indicators
This Practice Standard aims to ensure that NDIS participants’ assets are secure and can be used under the participant’s autonomy (NDIS 2020).
NDIS providers must meet the following quality indicators:
Participants’ money or property can only be used with their consent, and only for purposes specified by the participant. If a provider is given access to the participant’s assets, there must be processes enacted to ensure the assets are protected, managed and accounted for
Participants should be supported to access and spend their own money as they wish
Participants are not given financial advice or information other than what would be reasonably required under their plan.
Exploitation (also known as financial abuse or economic abuse) involves the unauthorised, improper or illegal use of a participant’s money, property or assets for personal gain or the benefit of someone other than the participant (CDC 2020; RACGP 2014).
In some cases, care staff may perpetrate financial abuse against participants. Providers should be aware of the signs of financial abuse and have appropriate policies and procedures in place to manage incidents involving their staff.
Be mindful of participants who are frail, isolated or lonely, as they may be particularly vulnerable to exploitation (Nursing Home Abuse Center 2019).
Examples of exploitation include:
Misappropriation of property (deliberately misplacing or exploiting the participant’s property, or using the participant’s property without their permission
Forcing the participant to surrender their money or assets through coercion or deception
Using the participant's money without their permission
Pressuring the participant into giving gifts or loans
Restricting the participant’s access to their money.
(National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care 2018; RACGP 2014; Seniors Rights Victoria 2012)
Signs of exploitation include:
Large, unexplained bank transfers or withdrawals from the participant’s account
Care staff being overly familiar with the participant (e.g. calling them their ‘best friend’)
Substandard care being received by the participant
The participant not understanding or knowing their own financial situation.
(Nursing Home Abuse Center 2019)
Gifts from Participants
Providers should be particularly careful about gifts from participants, as this may blur the lines of the professional relationship between the participant and worker, with ethical implications. For example, staff may be accused of exploitation, or participants (or their loved ones) may use gifts as leverage to ‘buy’ a higher quality level of care from their provider (Hall & Willcox 2016).
Providers should consider enacting policies and procedures about gifts in order to minimise the risk of exploitation or boundary-crossing. It may be worth considering:
Whether staff are allowed to accept gifts at all
The maximum value of gifts that can be accepted by staff
Whether all gifts and their value should be disclosed to management.
(Hall & Willcox 2016)
Providers are obligated to ensure that participants’ assets are secure and investigate any allegations made towards their staff. They should:
Enact policies and procedures that address theft and misappropriation of property
Ensure employees are screened, trained and supervised
Investigate allegations made and take protective action
Train staff to notice and report signs of exploitation
Implement a whistleblowing policy
Protect participants during and after investigations
Report allegations to the appropriate body
Seek feedback from participants.
(National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care 2018; Croner-i Limited 2012)
Safety Tips for Participants
Participants may be encouraged to take protective measures such as:
Securing valuable goods or keeping them offsite
Maintaining an inventory list of their valuable possessions
Keeping large amounts of cash, bank cards or chequebooks offsite
Regularly monitoring their bank accounts for unusual activity
Installing security cameras in the home.
Despite this, it is important to remember that providers are responsible for ensuring that their staff respect participants’ money and property.
Rumours or allegations of theft or exploitation should never be disregarded, even if the participant is confused or providing unreliable information (Croner-i Limited 2012).
NDIS Participants form a relationship with their care staff built upon the expectation that themselves and their assets will be safe and respected. Providers have the responsibility to maintain this trust and appropriately train their staff to ensure participants have full autonomy of their money and property and do not fall victim to exploitation.