Why controversial and ‘broadly rejected’ adjustments to the NDIS has Australia’s disability neighborhood apprehensive
Australia’s new Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme has only just taken on the role, but she has already faced a passionate campaign to stop controversial reforms.
Disability organizations and lawyers are calling on Linda Reynolds to end proposed changes to people’s access to NDIS after she took responsibility for the program as part of a recent ministerial reshuffle.
Critics fear that the introduction of mandatory independent assessments will undermine the ability of NDIS participants to make decisions and control their lives.
It is because documents obtained under Freedom of Information Acts suggest that the government has made significant changes to an independent review that is used as a justification for introducing the ratings.
However, Senator Reynolds has defended the independence of the review prior to briefings with her state and territory counterparts, the disability sector, and NDIS participants.
While a new minister takes responsibility for the NDIS and advocates the proposed reforms, SBS News investigates the changes and why they are controversial.
What are independent reviews?
Former NDIS Minister Stuart Robert announced last year the introduction of independent assessments as part of the “largest” reforms of the disability program since its inception.
The change would result in participants being referred to a single designated reviewer to determine their eligibility for the NDIS and the amount of support and funding they will receive.
Under current arrangements, participants will receive reports from multiple therapists of their choice.
The government has described the new process as a “consistent, transparent and equitable” way of measuring a person’s capacity to support fairer decisions about access to NDIS.
“Independent assessments are person-centered – they gather accurate information about an individual’s support needs and the impact their disability has on their daily life,” Robert said in a statement last year.
“The beauty” of independent reviews, he said in March, is The “Nobody questions your disability”.
Why are you worried?
Critics fear the move is a cost-cutting measure that makes it harder for people to access the NDIS, puts participants in a worse position, and undermines their control over the support they receive.
A number of disability, domestic violence, justice, and Aboriginal organizations have raised concerns in recent months.
Last month dozens of disability groups came together to support a statement that the changes would “fundamentally change the individualized and personalized nature of the system”.
“While we all want greater consistency, we are very concerned that this increasingly automated process is not adequately addressing individual needs and circumstances,” the statement said. “This is not the NDIS we fought for.”
They said that outsourced private contractors’ assessments were done in just three hours using standardized tools, making it difficult to account for individual complexities or to create a fully realized picture of people’s needs and capabilities.
DV Vic & @dvrcv contributed to the Independent Assessment (IA) investigation under the NDIS. We believe that the IA model proposed by NDIA brings with it significant risk and safety concerns for victims of domestic violence with disabilities. Read the post: https://t.co/U04HHlS9wz
– DV Vic (Domestic Violence Victoria) (@dvvic) April 7, 2021
The organizations also expressed doubts that the evaluations would take into account the needs of people from different backgrounds who need evaluators with specialized expertise and cultural competence.
This was also an issue with filing a parliamentary inquiry, with some being concerned about the process that resulted in people from indigenous, culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds withdrawing.
There were also questions about how the ratings are actually used to determine participation plans and funding.
Companies have warned that the use of the standardized tools to identify support and funding has not been tested and it is not clear how the assessment results will be used to decide an individual’s NDIS budget.
“Despite the scale and cost of the changes, they have not been rigorously tested or subjected to independent assessment,” said the March statement from numerous disability groups.
Last year the federal senators questioned the integrity of the feedback from an independent evaluation pilot program.
There were also concerns about the inability to appeal the independent auditor’s decision. The total number of appeals against NDIS decisions increased by more than 700 percent between 2016 and 2020.
The National Disability Insurance Agency has announced that independent assessments will begin rolling out later in 2021.
Eight contractors have already been selected, one of which is controlled by a company run by a former NDIA boss.
But when Senator Reynolds takes over the NDIS portfolio, disability advocates and the Labor opposition this week urged them to leave “”“widely rejected” changes.
“As the new NDIS minister, Senator Reynolds has a unique opportunity to reset relationships with people with disabilities and rebuild their trust,” said Ross Joyce of the Australian Federation of Disability Organizations on Tuesday.
In the meantime, the parliamentary inquiry into independent evaluations has completed the acceptance of motions. Almost 100 posts had been uploaded online by Friday.
A spokesman for Senator Reynolds said she would soon have full briefings this week with her state and territory counterparts, the disability sector and NDIS attendees.
“The minister will then raise these issues publicly once this consultation has taken place,” he said.
Additional coverage from Evan Young and AAP.
Comments are closed.