© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
A decade ago the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) began as an idea and in 2016 was rolled out across Australia. Five years on, more than 432,000 Australians participate in the scheme and are being given the opportunity to live their best life.
Now you might turn off here and say the NDIS has nothing to do with my life, other than as a taxpayer. You may go on to say you're a bit alarmed about the projected Federal Budget blow out from $23 billion in spending for 2020/21 to more than $40 billion by 2023/24.
Don't be so fast about losing interest:
Every Australian has a vested interest in this NDIS scheme and its sustainability as it offers each and every one of us the insurance of disability support should we be struck down by accident or illness.
Look through two of my recent case study blogs:
- Case Study: Living Independently With A Disability Through Disease
- Case Study: Living Independently With A Disability Through An Accident
... and you'll find plenty of examples of Australian lives changed in a blink of an eye and how the NDIS has given valuable support to them and their families.
After five years of the scheme's operation, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) last year put forward 50 improvements. These improvements are the culmination of previous reviews and enquiries, in particular the Tune Review of 2019.
Introduction of Independent Assessments
One improvement is the proposed introduction of Independent Assessments as part of the application process.
It is this proposal that is causing some controversy from existing participants and disability advocates. In response, the Joint Standing Committee of the NDIS Enquiry is currently hosting public hearings across the country to hear those concerns.
The proposed introduction of Independent Assessments, paid for by the NDIA, has my support. Why?
Having Independent Assessments is a more equitable measure for all participants, provides greater flexibility, and makes for a more sustainable scheme in the longer term.
The improvement reflects the original tenets of the scheme, outlined by the Productivity Commission in 2011 that: “Assessors should…be independent of the person being assessed to reduce the potential for ‘sympathy’ bias”.
When it was rolled out, initial NDIS participants were moved across from their State/Territory scheme into the NDIS, with their eligibility determined by State/Territory assessments and data, some of which was inadequate to make a consistent decision on NDIS eligibility.
Those who are new to the scheme, and not part of that transition, need to pay for their own assessments of functional capacity. This leads to inequities and inconsistencies.
For example, if I have ample money of my own to build my points of evidence and call on any health professional, then I may end up with more supports than a participant who does not have the personal funds to build a dossier of evidence.
Further, if the health professional is known to me and known for a period of time, there is a higher likelihood of bias and tendency for over-stating my support needs.
The proposed Independent Assessment process asks the NDIS applicant to choose an assessor from the NDIA's preferred list of assessors. The assessors are vetted health professionals in the therapy fields (occupational, physio and speech) and psychologists. These assessments are paid for by the NDIA.
There are other aspects to the proposed improvement such as greater flexibility through the participant's receipt of a fixed sum to spend on the supports they desire, from their provider of choice.
This contrasts with the current approach, which tends to seek to identify each and every support a person requires and attach a sum of funds to that. This results in detailed and inflexible plans.
We await the outcomes of the Joint Standing Committee Enquiry and the leadership of our new Minister for the NDIS, Linda Reynolds on the issue.
If you're seeking advice on disability support solutions and the subsidies available, please feel free to contact me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion.
At DR Care Solutions we specialise in making sure you have the right care, support and assistance at the right time and in the right place.
 As at 31 December 2020
 "NDIS Bill To Jump $10bn Over Budget", Weekend Australian, May 22-23 2021, p1
 2019 Independent Review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (the NDIS Act) by Mr David Tune AO PSM
 NDIS Independent Assessments Public Hearings
 Australian Government Productivity Commission Disability Care & Support Report