Leaked NDIS plan sparks anger among disability groups
29 March 2021 at 5:17 pm
But the Morrison government says the leaked plan is just “one of 78 drafts” being considered
Disability advocates have slammed proposed changes to the National Disability Insurance Scheme detailed in leaked draft legislation, amid fears the government plans to deny vulnerable people support and shut out the voices of advocacy groups.
Nine newspapers reported on Friday that the Morrison government was considering “radical reforms” to the NDIS, with a leaked 300-page legislative draft outlining changes that would significantly overhaul the scheme.
Included in the draft were proposals to deny funding to people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and acquired brain injuries, to reduce a participant’s avenues of appeal, and to consider removing the “reasonable and necessary” test for the provision of NDIS services.
There was also a proposal to remove all references to “co-design” in the legislation, which could mean the voices of people with disability and their representative groups were lost in the policy design process.
People with Disability Australia president Samantha Connor said these changes were incredibly troubling.
“At Senate estimates this week, representatives from the National Disability Insurance Agency said that they had consulted extensively with the disability sector over the past few months,” Connor said.
“To discover that there are significant changes proposed that will disadvantage people with disability, along with a proposal to cut out co-design with participants and disabled persons organisations, is deeply concerning.”
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and the National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (NOFASD) have urged the Morrison government to immediately confirm that people with FASD will not have their NDIS access restricted.
Sophie Harrington, the chief operating officer at NOFASD, said that some of its members were already in desperate emotional circumstances due to existing barriers to getting disability support.
“Further restrictions or challenges to people with FASD, their families and carers would be devastating,” Harrington said.
“So many children with FASD are only just getting the NDIS support they need now, and to take that away from them would be heartbreaking.”
The Morrison government has moved to assuage fears about the leaked legislation.
Then NDIS Minister Stuart Robert said on Twitter on Friday that “reasonable and necessary” would not be removed from NDIS legislation.
He added that the leaked draft proposals would not necessarily be included in the final draft the government releases.
“I have not seen the supposed draft for NDIS legislation reforms (one of 78 drafts I’m told) referred to in media articles [on Friday]. The only draft legislation the [government] intends to introduce is the one I will release shortly,” Robert said.
Minister Robert declined to comment further when asked by Pro Bono News when the final draft would be released, and if it would include any of the proposals detailed in the leaked draft.
On Monday, Linda Reynolds was appointed the new minister for the NDIS, with Robert named as the minister for employment.
Advocates urge government to go back to the drawing board
The head of policy at the ACT Council of Social Service, Craig Wallace, told Pro Bono News it was alarming that a piece of draft legislation like this had got as far as it has.
“Those of us who’ve worked in the bureaucracy know that to actually get to a full set of draft legislation like this is a result of bureaucrats reflecting the intentions of their ministers,” Wallace said.
“So this gives us a disturbing insight into the plans for NDIS reforms.”
This leaked legislation suggested that funding could be taken away from an NDIS participant if they refused to undertake an independent assessment (IA), despite disability advocates arguing the IA process is deeply flawed.
Wallace said he was deeply concerned by this, and also a proposal that would allow the minister to remove particular types of support that they considered were not appropriate for funding.
This follows the federal government’s push to prevent sex work services from being funded by the NDIS, after the federal court ruled last year that a woman with multiple sclerosis could include trained sex therapist services in her NDIS plan.
Wallace said the government’s crusade against the NDIS funding sex work services could have broader implications for the scheme.
“I’m concerned that that issue, amongst others, is being used as a stalking horse to put in place wide ranging changes to the scheme that would remove eligibility for people needing all kinds of supports, such as people with acquired brain injury and FASD,” he said.
“These kinds of proposed changes ruling out particular kinds of supports… go well beyond the sexual expression issue into a range of other supports, in areas such as education [and] employment.”
Wallace urged the government to “go back to the drawing board and start again” in consultation with disability representative groups.
“I think they need to go back to the recommendations of the Tune report, which said people with disabilities were frustrated by the lack of specialist and other supports that were available,” he said.
“These reforms are not going to address those issues. These reforms are focused on cost cutting.”