Autism Funds Unit
Is the Autism Funds Processing unit run by trolls?
Probably not, but I have heard many horror stories.
I have spoken to some people who were incredibly helpful. I have also heard dozens of stories from parents and therapists with nightmare scenarios. Invoices are “lost” and payments delayed in some cases for months. It is becoming a serious problem because therapists are not being paid on time and many are now looking for work elsewhere.
Is the Autism Funds Unit really that slow with payments?
The AFU continues to operate in crisis mode with procedures that are obstructionist and archaic. Many consultants and therapists are near the breaking point because they are not being paid in a timely manner and the follow up required is draining their time and energy. Meanwhile the AFU and MCFD continue to claim that the processing time is under control and there is no problem.
They are now trying a different tack by blaming the Service Providers and parents for not completing the paperwork correctly. Refer to this circular published by ACT detailing some of the pitfalls that delay invoice payments. It is galling to have a confusing and complex funding structure and then blame the providers and parents for the delay. Nevertheless, you should review the circular and ensure that you are not committing any of the listed errors.
It’s vitally important that you have a system to keep track of your funding allocations. Some suggestions include:
- A hand written table
- A spreadsheet using Excel, Open Office, Numbers or Google Docs
- A white board in your office
- A table created in a word processing program
It doesn’t really matter how you track your funding, but you must do it. You can also request regular email summaries from your contact person at the AFU (keeping in mind that this is always changing and you may need to call and update this).
I also recommend that you strongly encourage your therapists and consultants to track their own funding. It is in their best interests to ensure that there is enough funding for next month’s payment. The follow up to the RTP will let the therapists know how much funding is allocated, so there is no excuse why they shouldn’t be able to track things. If they notice that next month’s invoice may not be covered by the AFU funds, it should be brought to the attention of the parents.
What seems to be their hot button issues these days?
- They are sometimes taking exception to interns working with your child. The interns are highly experienced therapists who are under the supervision of Behaviour Consultants. A good intern will always be working to becoming a Behaviour Consultant in their own right by pursuing a master’s degree and BCBA certification under the supervision of a reputable Behaviour Consultant. It’s a good solution to a shortfall of consultants in BC. It’s important to remember when communicating with the government that you have a Behaviour Consultant on the Registry for Autism Service Providers List (RASP) who is in charge. You should avoid titles such as “Junior Consultant”. They should be referred to as a Behaviour Interventionist or Senior Behaviour Interventionist.
- Refer to Chapter 5 Contracting with Professionals on the RASP of the ACT Autism Manual of BC for a list of acceptable titles and service descriptions.
- Material funding is always an item of contention. Items such as computers, bicycles, trampolines etc, may be approved for one family and denied to another. Ensure that all material requests are made in writing and justified by your consultant.
- MCFD has now added a FAQ section to clarify some of their policies.
Who can deal with them?
Only the parent who has signed the funding agreement can discuss funding over the phone, unless he/she sends or faxes consent to the unit authorizing the other parent to speak with them.
Final bits of advice
- Ensure your RTP form matches the invoice EXACTLY. “BI’s” do “behaviour intervention.” Make sure the invoice uses this term and title.
- BI’s and BC’s can call the AFU often before paperwork is sent out and ask for the billing number of the child.
- BI’s cannot claim any indirect charges (e.g., Team Meetings, travel, admin), so list everything as “Behaviour Intervention”
- If you have two sessions (or a session + TM) on one day, group them together as 1 day’s work- they don’t like multiple charges from the same day
- If there is a contentious issue, e.g., you’ve sent an invoice via email, but they “lost” it, call them, and email/fax while you’re on the line and try to get a verbal confirmation that they received the second version while you’re speaking with them.
- If you have to talk to the AFU, try talking to the receptionists first. They are often helpful and you may have difficulty getting through to your specific case worker. They often aren’t available, and then message tag ensues.
- Don’t ever try to settle an invoice issue through email, they will likely not respond. Calling is a much better idea.
- The AFU won’t always call you if there’s a problem with your invoice. If you haven’t received payment in 6 weeks, call and figure out what happened.
- Make sure your paperwork is bulletproof.
- Keep track of all invoices and receipts. Know the dates that they were submitted to the AFU. File all invoices and receipts for quick access later.
- Keep a record of who you dealt with at the AFU. If you have been aggrieved, then you should seek help from your local MLA.