NDIS Reforms 2021

What are the proposed NDIS reforms, and how might they impact you?

Last year, former Minister for the NDIS Stuart Robert proposed changes to the NDIS and the way funding was assessed. With many fearing their disabilities would no longer be covered, and amid widespread public accusations of ‘penny-pinching’ by the government, current minister Linda Reynolds has said that she has “no intention of excluding Australians from the insurance scheme…” But just what are these proposed changes, and how might they affect you?

Currently, participants on the NDIS submit evidence for their disability from their own choice of therapists, psychologists and other health professionals. This is in line with overarching ideals of the NDIS, which since 2013 has enabled the choice in care to be given back to the participant rather than decisions in care be made on their behalf.

What the proposed changes would do is see participants require an ‘independent assessment’ from an allied health professional. The government has already appointed eight contractors to conduct the independent assessments, expected to be fully rolled out in 2021.

The controversy, especially amongst disability advocates, is that both new and existing NDIS participants will be assessed on their need for funding by someone who not only isn’t their usual doctor, but likely they have never met. Many organisations have warned the standardised measurement structures will not be able to take in the nuances of individual circumstances, most notably in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities. There have also been questions raised over the personal nature of the questions in the assessment, and whether people would be comfortable answering them to strangers.

The government has called the new process a “consistent, transparent and equitable” way to assess needs, and that this would in turn help support a fairer NDIS.

One of the key omissions from the new legislation is the phrase ‘reasonable and necessary’ when referring to supports required. There is fear that this will mean that the independent assessors will have the power to veto services required by participants, and thus continue to reduce the independent and self-empowering nature of the scheme.

The arguments over the definition of ‘psychosocial disability’ in the proposed legislation gave rise to fears that those with acquired brain injury or foetal-alcohol spectrum disorder would no longer be covered. Senator Reynolds has fervently denied this claim and said no one would be excluded based on diagnosis.

What does this mean for you?

At the moment, the system is in a trial phase, and will initially be only used to assess new participants to the NDIS. However, this will change as the current 440,000 NDIS participants will have their reviews by independent assessors from the second half of this year.

There is no way of knowing right now exactly how this system might affect your funding, but there is every chance that the lack of specificity might mean changes to your funding.

Not all the proposed changes are negative however: In the new system, budgets can be set for longer periods of time (up to five years) with regular check ups to ensure the plan is still working for you, and they can be more flexible in how they are used. You will also receive a draft plan which will be given to you before your planning meeting.

The lack of clarity when it comes to legislative changes makes it hard to know exactly how these proposed changes will play out on an individual level, but the most important thing you can do is stay connected to your supports – whether that be support coordinators or workers, friends, or family.

Reach Social Supports is staying across the changes and are always here to support where we can.

Contact us at 1300 982 339 or email contact@reachsocialsupports.com.au