“This is not the NDIS that was promised”: peak body National Disability Services says planned independent assessments will “fundamentally alter the individualised and personalised nature of the NDIS”.
Can a stranger understand the complex nature of a person’s disability in just a few short hours? That is the simple question surrounding the government’s planned changes to how support is provided on the NDIS. But there are many other concerns held by peak body National Disability Services (NDS).
The government is changing the way support is provided by the NDIS and they are doing it by outsourcing the assessment of people with disability to private contractors using standardised tools in as little as three hours.
These assessors will not be known to the person and it will be difficult to capture individual complexity or build a comprehensive and accurate picture of people’s needs and circumstances.
“The real worry for us is that these results cannot be challenged or appealed easily,” says David Moody, CEO of NDS. “In fact, people will not be given a copy of the full assessment report unless they apply to see it and the hurdles that presents for a person with disability is unacceptable.”
Too easy to get wrong
Don Elgin is an ex-Paralympian and now head coach at Wallara disability support services. An amputee since birth, Elgin has been an elite athlete, motivational speaker and now a success at work but he has real concerns about the independent assessments.
“I am concerned about how fast and impersonal it is,” Elgin says. “It will be hard for people with profound disability to articulate their needs to a stranger in a three hour window. At worst it forces people to play the game of being disabled. Even someone like me has good days and bad days with my prosthetic, and a single impersonal assessment may give an inaccurate picture of my needs.”
“Developing a complete and accurate understanding of the functional abilities of people with ‘invisible’ or complex disabilities requires specialised skills and experience,” says David Moody. We are not confident that the planned model takes this into account. We understand the purpose is to bring some kind of additional fairness into the system, but this is not the way to do it.”
Moody says these assessments are not genuinely independent but performed by organisations contracted by the NDIA, which in itself raises questions about the assessments ‘independent’ nature. The proposed use of telehealth facilities to undertake assessments with participants in rural and remote areas may make it difficult for some people with disability to fully participate.
“These changes will fundamentally alter the individualised and personalised nature of the NDIS,” Moody says. “While we all want greater consistency and improved NDIS planning and assessment processes which treat everyone equally, we are very concerned this impersonal, one-off process will not adequately consider individual need and circumstance. This is not the NDIS we fought for.”
NDS is calling on the government to:
- Immediately cease the rollout of compulsory assessments as currently planned
- Undertake robust, independent and transparent trials of alternative approaches to improving consistency in access and planning-such as allowing a person’s existing health professionals to complete assessments using the same tools
- Once the trials and evaluations are complete, engage in a meaningful co-design process with people with disability
- Allow a participant to invite a support person of their choice to attend planning meetings (or independent assessment, if it is implemented)
- When information from an independent assessment paints a picture of support needs which is quite different from that of others, a review should be triggered (which follows a process developed with the broader sector)