A Liberal senator has joined a growing number of critics of her government’s controversial plan to introduce independent assessments for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Hollie Hughes, whose 11-year-old son Fred has autism, told RN Breakfast today the changes would put allied health professionals, some with no knowledge of the particular condition a client has, in charge of assessing funding needs.
“Quite frankly, my senior behavioural therapist who has been with us for over 10 years has a much better idea of what Fred can and can’t do than a speech therapist who has never known anyone with autism before,” Senator Hughes said.
The NDIS has been trialling the use of independent assessors, instead of relying on an individual’s medical advice, when considering new applications for funding under the scheme.
Under the change, independent allied health professionals spend one to four hours with a person to assess their needs and eligibility.
Senator Hughes said the assessment process included a set list of questions, but NDIS participants needed to be treated as individuals.
“It’s been people going in and asking a very set list of questions or a series of tasks; peeling a piece of fruit over the sink, making a cup of tea, taking the bin out,” Senator Hughes said.
“Then there are questions like, ‘In the past 30 days have you needed support to maintain a friendship, conduct sexual activity?’
“The questions are invasive, inappropriate, but on top of that they had nothing to do with what a person’s goals were.”
Senator Hughes said the NDIS had been a “game changer” for her son Fred and the whole family.
“I’m a massive fan of the NDIS. When Fred was diagnosed it didn’t exist,” Senator Hughes said.
The government has marketed the changes as a method of making the system fairer and more responsible.
The cost of the scheme is expected to reach more than $30 billion by the middle of this decade.
Focus should be on providers, Hughes says
Senator Hughes said the government and the agency in charge of the scheme needed to look at providers rather than participants for savings.
“The people most focused on the sustainability of schemes are the parents of kids with disability or people with a disability because they need it to succeed more than any bureaucrat needs a job. We need it,” Senator Hughes said.
“It’s getting a bit insulting that it’s consistently looking at the participants and saying we need this to be sustainable.
“No-one is looking at the providers, who are charging obscene amounts of money in some cases for appointments.”
The Minister for the NDIS, Linda Reynolds, said the government was committed to improving the experience of participants, while ensuring ongoing sustainability.
“We need to give genuine flexibility, choice and control to participants so we can deliver the NDIS as it was originally intended,” Senator Reynolds said.
“The scheme is deeply inequitable in its application and I am deeply committed to introducing some form of functional assessment to bring fairness and equity to the process.
“The final form will be decided as a result of the consultation process underway.”