drummond street services statement on NDIS Scheme changes

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a government funded support scheme that is available to Australian permanent residents and citizens with disabilities to provide support in their lives. Some examples of the types of things the NDIS may help with can be from mobility aids such as wheelchairs, walkers, scooters to home modifications such as ramps, railings, bathroom/kitchen modifications, as well as support workers to assist people to get tasks done and to support people get out and about in the community. The NDIS may also provide you with transport funding for taxis.

A review into the NDIS called The Tune Review recommended significant changes to the NDIS, which will impact how people with disabilities will be assessed for eligibility to the scheme and the supports they may receive.

It recommended people with disabilities should use NDIS approved ‘independent’ assessors. It’s important to note that the review also stated that ‘this change in approach will require consultation with participants, the disability sector, service providers and the NDIS workforce’. This consultation has not happened, and disability advocates are rightfully worried.

Currently, to access the NDIS, you need to provide evidence for your disabilities and how they impact your life. This evidence, which can be in the form of letters or reports from your queer friendly GP, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, mental health professionals or other specialist of your choosing. Being able to choose which type of health professional provides you with letters of support is very important. It is particularly important for marginalised people who need professionals who respect and understand their identities, cultures and how disability uniquely impacts them and the communities they are part of. The letters of support form a vital part of outlining to the NDIS who you are, what your disabilities are, and what supports you might need.

Under the new assessment model, the health professionals you might have previously chosen will not be able to support you, instead, the NDIS will fund organisations to provide these assessments. The assessors will be health professionals, such as, occupational therapists or psychologists. They will utilise standard assessment tools decided by the NDIS. The assessment will take between 1 to 4 hours, this time will also include writing up a report on you.

You will not be able to see the report or correct if they haven’t captured something about you or your circumstance correctly. This assessment determines the amount and types of support you are given; and if you are provided with access to the NDIS in the first place. This is not very transparent, or participant focused.

The catchcry of the NDIS has been ‘providing choice and control in the lives of people with disabilities’, which means that people with disabilities should be able to decide what they need, how and when. This takes away your power and places it in the hands of people who do not know the person and are not experts in their specific disabilities.

drummond street services opposes the introduction of independent assessments in the NDIS, which will come into play for anyone entering the scheme by February 2021 and people currently receiving the NDIS by July 2021. We believe this will impact marginalised people with disabilities (LGBTIQA+, POC, First Nations People) disproportionately as people who don’t know the individual, have very little to no understanding of their lived experience and the communities they are from, will be deciding what supports they receive.

Karen Field, CEO of drummond street services said “We believe the purpose of these changes are to reduce the cost of the NDIS by reducing eligibility for the scheme and pushing people out of the NDIS.  It’s always the case that when governments want to cut costs, the most vulnerable people are impacted. We need to stand against this”

Jax Jacki Brown, drummond street staff member and disability advocate said “We believe the proposed assessment process will see less people who require essential funding being provided with it. We are concerned that people will be denied access to equipment and supports which are fundamental to their wellbeing and participation in the community. We believe the process itself has the potential to be undignified, unjust and humiliating for people with disability.”

We call on NDIS Minister Stuart Robert to do everything in his power to repeal the independent assessment process and replace it with a fairer process where peoples eligibility is assessed on an individual basis, instead of a standardised process, which we have seen fail miserably in the past when it comes to disability access to Centrelink payments.

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