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Ask DSC: How do I bill this type of transport?

Rob advises a provider on one of our most frequently asked transport queries.

By Rob Woolley

Updated 15 Apr 202420 Sept 2022

I am a service manager for a large provider. We support a participant who sometimes asks a worker to go to the shops during a shift, while they stay at home because they don’t feel well. If this is what a person wants, then we’re happy to be directed by them!

Our problem comes when we try to find the right way to bill the kilometres that the worker travels to and from the shops. Our finance manager says this should be billed from the person’s general transport funds, while someone on our rostering team thinks because the participant isn’t going with the worker, this should be provider travel. Yet another staff member says it should be billed as non face-to-face services. I think that activity based transport might be suitable here, but I’m not 100% sure. What is the best way to bill all the components of this type of shift?

What an excellent (i.e. complicated) question, and it’s one I suspect many providers grapple with. It’s great that you’re flexible and willing to be directed by the person on how they want you to deliver their paid support. If I was wearing a hat, I’d tip it to you.

Now to the point. The different types of transport and travel supports in the NDIS often get mixed up, but the difference is actually pretty simple.

  • Transport is any movement after the service has started.
  • Travel is the time and associated costs a worker incurs travelling to the service to deliver the support.
  • General transport is a small amount of NDIS funding designed to contribute to transport costs for people who cannot use public transport without substantial difficulty due to their disability. It is sometimes paid into a person’s bank account.
  • Activity based transport is a contribution to the costs of transport associated with a NDIS-funded activity for certain support types.

In your situation, because the shift has started but the participant isn’t on the move, things get a bit more complicated.

Let’s use the process of elimination to work out what to bill:

  • It’s not provider travel because the face-to-face shift has already started, so the worker isn't travelling to the service.
  • There’s no technical reason why it couldn’t be listed as non face-to-face, but it also wouldn’t be typical of things usually billed as non face-to-face, which are designed to contribute to the costs a provider incurs in supporting someone when they aren’t physically with the participant. It’s more often used for things like progress reports, meeting with allied health professionals, creating individualised supports and plans, and so on. So, your staff member’s suggestion isn’t incorrect, but it is unorthodox.
  • Your finance manager is also technically correct in that this could be billed as general transport. But if the person is having their transport payment paid into their bank account, this means you’ve got to mess around with generating, sending out, and collecting on invoices for just a few dollars’ worth of kilometres. So, again, this is not incorrect, but there’s a better way.

The NDIA hasn’t produced any guidelines about what to do in this situation (quelle surprise). In this situation, we know more about what not to bill than what to bill. To me, it’s a toss-up between general transport and activity based transport. Any time a transport cost is incurred during a NDIS-funded service, I always lean towards activity based transport (partly because the funds come from the same place as the direct support and thus aren’t as limited as general transport levels).

Activity based transport can be billed for such a wide range of activities. This is a great thing when a provider is committed to delivering flexible and person-directed service delivery (as you are). Activity based transport is no longer best suited just to traditional day programs and group services. Activity Based Transport can cover the costs of transport during a community participation shift. If the support the person wants to participate in the community is someone to go to the shops on their behalf, that shift can be considered as the activity and the transport costs can be considered Activity Based Transport.

This means you’d need to have two lines of claiming. One is for the worker’s time, and the other uses the relevant activity based transport code for the associated costs you agree on (e.g., a per kilometre rate, road tolls, parking fees, etc.). Don’t forget the golden rule in all of these decisions: the person you are supporting should have all the options in front of them. If necessary, you or your staff can explain what each choice means for their goals, supports, and funds. The participant needs to make an informed decision, and the agreement must be documented.

In summary, if the person wants the support to include the worker going to the shops on their behalf, there are many instances where that’s a completely reasonable and necessary NDIS-funded activity. Where a person is able to spend their plan funds on this, activity based transport is often a great way to go for everyone. I see it as choice and control at a micro level.

(Have more questions? Or juicy / complicated examples causing you transport and travel headaches? Come along to our Everything You Need To Know About Transport and Travel workshop. In just two hours, we answer your questions, give you the tools you need to make decisions like these, and equip you to support participants to get the best value from their plans).


Rob Woolley

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