This year the Australian Government and National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) have proposed radical reforms to the access and planning processes of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Two of the most significant proposals include the introduction of independent assessments (IAs) and personalised budgets (PBs).

We have been learning more in the past couple of months about these plans from the newly appointed Minister for the NDIS, Linda Reynolds, and NDIA CEO, Martin Hoffman.

What are IAs and PBs and what does it all mean?

IAs are a new process to determine a person’s functional capacity to assess whether they are eligible for the NDIS, and as a starting point in determining a person’s reasonable and necessary level of plan funding. IAs will be conducted by an allied health professional from an NDIA-approved assessor organisation and use an assessment toolkit to define a person’s level of function in different domains of life. Assessors will draft a report outlining a person’s functional capacity based on their answers and feedback from a support person attending an IA, which will then be associated with standardised ‘profiles’ that the NDIA is developing.

The NDIA has created 400+ participant profiles to group people based on their disability type, age and other factors. Using this profile and details about a person’s environmental and personal factors, participants will be assigned a draft budget. Planning meetings will focus on how to use funding to achieve a participant’s goals, rather than negotiating individual supports. The fixed budget covers supports including high cost assistive technology, home modifications and Specialist Disability Accommodation.

You can find more information about IAs on the NDIS website here and papers on PBs here.

Our concerns

These reforms will depart from a person-centred approach to supporting NDIS participants and applicants to achieve their goals and aspirations. The current format of IAs and lack of appeal rights, and automating the development of PBs puts participants and applicants at risk of not receiving the right level of support and being unable to assert their rights effectively.

We want to make sure that any reforms are justified by evidence-based, peer reviewed research and follow extensive, productive co-design and consultation with people with disability and the disability sector. Unfortunately, so far that has not been the case. We are left asking more and more questions about transparency, individual and general accountability, accuracy of information and genuine fairness.

Where to from here?

At this stage, the introduction of independent assessments is ‘on pause’. The second IA pilot is continuing and will be completed sometime at the end of this month.

People with Disability Australia is conducting a survey into people’s experiences during the second pilot and we would encourage anyone who was invited or who has participated in the pilot to provide feedback.
The survey closes on Sunday, 27 June.

After completion of the pilot, Minister Reynolds has indicated that she will review the results before introducing a new reform bill into Parliament in September.

SCIA is working with other organisations in the sector to determine a collective strategy moving forward and how best to ensure that any reforms to the NDIS meet the needs of NDIS participants and future applicants. Our goal is always to protect the heart of the NDIS – improving choice and control for people with disability across Australia. We will continue to update members about our work in this area in our Monthly Updates.

If you would like to raise your concerns about this issue, please join SCIA’s Advocacy Forum and we can continue the discussion.

Written by Megan Bingham, Policy and Advocacy