Advocates call for disability ministers to back community ahead of meeting on NDIS changes

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday July 8, 2021

Disability advocates from across Australia urge state and territory governments to reject federal changes that they say will weaken the NDIS. (karrastock/Adobe)

Disability advocates from across Australia have urged state and territory governments to reject federal changes that they say will weaken the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The changes include the proposed NDIS eligibility testing model known as independent assessments. The process, if introduced, would involve assessments being undertaken by allied health professionals unknown to NDIS participants rather than their own treating professionals.

State and territory disability ministers are set to meet with the federal NDIS minister to discuss the changes on Friday. Ahead of that meeting, Councils of Social Service (COSS) from each jurisdiction have called on the states and territories to listen to the concerns of people with disabilities.

“People with disabilities, carers and families have been clearly united in opposition to these changes for more than a year, articulating their concerns that they would remove vital supports, traumatise people in the scheme, remove a rights-based approach to disability supports and disadvantage some of the people with greatest need,” Australian COSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said on Thursday.

“Despite a change in consultation style, it is clear that the federal government remains intent on changes that are strongly opposed by people with disability and their organisations.”

READ MORE: NDIS too reliant on public servants’ ‘natural empathy’, Reynolds says

The calls have come a day after the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) released a report from the Independent Advisory Council on the proposed NDIS reforms.

The council recommended that the proposed independent assessments ‘do not proceed in the current form’, stating they should be ‘co-designed with Council and representatives of Disability Support Organisation to be simpler, fairer, more respectful and safer for participants’.

The NDIA has issued an interim response to the council’s report, agreeing that ‘independent assessments should not proceed in the form used’ in a pilot of the process, which involved almost 4000 NDIS participants.

“We will strengthen relationships with the disability community by continuing to test and refine the approach to assessment and the design of the proposed personalised budgets model,” it said.

“We also acknowledge the wider issues council identified about how the NDIS works with other government systems. We agree the proposed changes, including independent assessments, are not the single solution to the challenges the scheme faces.

“By working with people with disability and their families and carers, the disability sector and with governments, departments and agencies, we aim to build inclusive communities that enable greater social and economic participation by people with disability.”

READ MORE: The Briefing: Conflicts of interest claims and ‘independent assessments’ dog NDIS reform


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