‘Material changes’ needed to NDIS independent assessments
The Disability Discrimination Commissioner wants to see “material changes” to a new process the National Disability Insurance Scheme is using to assess what people’s needs are and how much funding they can access.
The NDIS is trialling independent assessments to judge participant’s needs instead of people having to provide reports from their own doctors and medical specialists, which can be costly and a barrier for some people with disabilities. It plans to use independent assessments as part of the process to accept new people into the scheme from mid-2021, and to review existing participants’ plans by the end of the year.
The human rights commission is concerned independent assessments could undermine the effectiveness of the NDIS.Credit:Louise Kennerley
But scheme participants and disability advocates fear the assessments are a stealthy way of cutting costs and won’t give a full picture of people’s true needs. One person campaigning against the change, who asked to remain anonymous because they work in the sector, has described it as “a blunt tool”.
Commissioner Ben Gauntlett told a Senate estimates hearing the Australian Human Rights Commission had concerns the new policy “might undermine the effectiveness of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and not have the intended effect, particularly for individuals with complex support needs”.
“What I’m hopeful is that there will be some material amendments to the approach taken,” he said.
“The practical operation of these independent assessments is critical and their implementation has caused widespread concern and comment from people with disability, disabled persons organisations, advocates, academics, carers, and health and medical professionals.”
Dr Gauntlett noted the agency running the NDIS was still consulting and had received more than 750 submissions, which he hoped would lead to changes before Parliament legislated the new system.
Last year it was revealed a survey used to justify the rollout of independent assessments after the first trial included just 35 NDIS participants, out of more than 500 who took part.
The government is now holding a second trial of the independent assessments, offering participants $150 for their time. A National Disability Insurance Agency spokesman said in February this second trial had more than 2300 people taking part.
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