NDIS independent assessments forget that food fuels function

Monday 12 April 202 1 NDIS independent assessments forget that food fuels function Dietitians Australia calls for the government to immediately cease the roll out of the independent assessment program as part of its proposed reforms to th e National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), in a bid to prevent, avoidable nutrition -related death s of vulnerable Australians.

Under these changes, the independent assessment would review a person’s function and use this as the basis to determine acc ess and allocat ion of NDIS funding. Alarmingly, this would result in limited testing on food habits and nutrition status – a vital factor in func tion and overall wellbeing.

“Nutrition screening is an important step to help identify and provide support to those at risk of malnutrition. It’s also a life -saving measure to detect those at immediate risk of death, due to swallowing ability, to eat safe ly and reduce the incidence of choking,” said Kathryn Toohey.

Accredited Practising Dietitian and Dietitians Au stralia’s Disability Subject Matter Lead.

“People with disability have unique and complex food and nutrition needs, and it’s vital these are adeq uately addressed to help them achieve their lifestyle and health goals.” Being well -nourished is influenced by many factors – including a person’s food knowledge, ability to plan meal s, shop, cook, store and prepare food s afely as well as their physical ab ility to eat a meal.

These must be reviewed as apart of nutrition screening to ensure appropriate support is provided as per an individual’s needs.

“Consider a person with cerebral palsy who has swallowing difficulties and requires pureed food and thicken ed drinks to reduce choking risk,” said Kat hryn.

“A multi -disciplinary allied health team works together, to ensure the right foods, supportive seating.

and adaptive utensils are provided for the person’s needs. They also adjust this over time as their sit uation changes.” However, the new assessmen t program simply addresses the function – whether a person can feed themselves, without identifying the surrounding supports required to facilitate this function.

“While there is room for improvement in the NDIS, this change threatens to undermine the prin ciples the NDIS was built upon,” said Kathryn.

Over 100 organisations and leaders in disability are also calling for the changes to be ax ed, as it will alter the personalised and i ndividualised approach the current NDIS provides.

Dietitians are asking for a review of the current assessment system, and for solutions to be co – designed with people with disability, their family and supporters, to ensure funding is used to enhance physic al, mental and social wellbeing and support active participation in the community.

“There are trained health professionals who are ready to support Australians to live to the best of their ability. We need a mod el of care that recognises this and makes i t easier for NDIS participants to access the services they need,” said Kathryn.

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