Disability advocates welcome move to pause independent assessments
15 April 2021 at 5:19 pm
The new NDIS minister has acknowledged the major backlash to the reforms
The Morrison government has decided to delay introducing mandatory independent assessments for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, in a move strongly welcomed by disability groups.
New National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Minister Linda Reynolds told The Australian on Wednesday that she would not be making any decisions around independent assessments (IA) legislation until an IA trial was finished and the government could examine the feedback.
While people currently need to get reports from multiple health providers of their choosing to assess their NDIS eligibility, the new mandatory assessments will be conducted by NDIS-appointed healthcare professionals using standardised tools.
But the decision to introduce IAs has been met with overwhelming opposition from disability advocates, who say the process does not adequately capture the complexity of a person’s support needs and will lead to unfair outcomes for people with disability.
Reynolds acknowledged the “significant feedback” IAs have already received, and said she would be consulting across the country with as many stakeholders as she could.
“Once I’ve received that feedback and the trial has concluded and we can assess the feedback of the trial, it is then a matter of making sure we have the best process (for assessment of eligibility), one that is fair and equitable and has appeal mechanisms,” Reynolds said.
Disability groups – who feared people would disengage from the scheme entirely because of their unwillingness to engage with IAs – strongly welcomed the minister’s comments.
A joint statement from disability organisations including People with Disability Australia and Every Australian Counts said it was “heartening” that the new minister has listened to their concerns.
But advocates said they wanted to see much more detail about what this meant for the future of the NDIS.
“The minister now has an opportunity to genuinely engage with the people the NDIS was designed to support and we stand ready to work with the government to develop a system that is sustainable and fair for the almost 450,000 Australians with disability who rely on it,” the statement said.
“We look forward to the minister making a concrete commitment at [Thursday’s] meeting of federal and state disability ministers to jettison the current proposal.”
In response to the announcement, Labor and the Greens have urged the Morrision government to scrap IAs entirely.
Shadow NDIS minister Bill Shorten said simply delaying IAs was not enough.
“The assessments plan is an anti-disability monster and as the new Liberal gatekeeper of the NDIS [Reynolds] needs to put a stake in its heart – not just delay it,” Shorten said.
Greens disability spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John added that it was clear the new NDIS minister had “seen the writing on the wall” about IAs.
“But, the Liberals have a track record of introducing dodgy legislation, pushing it back due to community pressure only to re-introduce it later on when everyone’s guard is down… [so] we must not back down now,” Steele-John said.