A ‘mistake’ to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) eligibility requirements has caused an uproar among the families and carers of children with autism across the nation.
Last week, an edit to the NDIS website excluded majority of autistic children from direct eligibility to early intervention and the support they need.
Under the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, autism can be divided into three levels of need with level one the lowest, level two requiring ‘substantial’ support and level three requiring ‘very substantial’ support.
The website update deleted level two autism off the NDIS eligibility criteria ‘List A’, leaving only level three and preventing automatic support for people who have been identified as needing ‘substantial’ assistance.
The following day the NDIS website reverted back to its old eligibility criteria, claiming the change was an ‘error’.
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) released a statement to explain disabilities, including level two autism, listed on List B will not mean an individual is ineligible, however, does necessitate that further evidence is required to fulfil the eligibility requirements.
“The intent of List B needing greater rigour is to ensure that, as intended, the Scheme benefits all eligible individuals with a significant and permanent disability,” the NDIA says.
Ms Nicole Rogerson, Chief Executive Officer of Autism Awareness Australia has labeled it an ‘incredibly short sighted policy’.
“The Government doesn't recognise the seriousness of level two autism, nor the gain that can be made if money is spent on quality early intervention,” she says.
“If we can help them [people with autism] early, it means much less people with autism on the NDIS in years to come.”
She says Autism Awareness Australia have not been consulted on these eligibility changes.
“The Government are backtracking to say these documents are all part of a review, but I suspect the decision has been made.”
Ms Rogerson says the secretive nature of information appearing and disappearing on the NDIS website isn’t comforting for the community.
“The Government has said it will roll out a full NDIS that will meet the needs of people with autism. If they don't, our community will hold them accountable and work to vote them out,” she says.
“Rather than helping, the NDIS is creating worse outcomes,” says Bob Buckley, Convenor of Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia, in a media release.
“The NDIS quietly changed its eligibility criteria without even letting the community of service providers know,” he says.
The NDIA took to their website after the incident to apologise, saying “the NDIA regrets the confusion caused earlier this week by the placement of an incorrect document loaded onto the NDIS website.”
Autism is currently the biggest primary disability type for children in the NDIS with more participants living with autism than initially expected.