A new package of reforms to the NDIS has been announced by the Government in response to the recommendations made in the 2019 Tune review of the NDIS Act.
The reforms aim to deliver on the promise of the NDIS which is to provide people with a permanent and significant disability choice and control over a flexible support package so that they can achieve their goals.
The announcement was made late last week and Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Stuart Robert, says the Government supports all of the recommendations of the Tune Review, completed by Mr David Tune AO PSM earlier this year.
Mr Tune's recommendations included creating a Participant Service Guarantee, decreasing wait times and funding independent functional assessments for people seeking to access the NDIS.
As a part of the reforms the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) released a new Participant Service Charter and Participant Service Improvement Plan, which sets out how the NDIA will deliver on the Participant Service Guarantee.
The Government says these reforms will set new service standards and timeframes for decision making by the NDIA, making it easier for participants and their families to navigate the NDIS.
Over the next six months, in line with public health advice, the Government will work in close collaboration with people with disability and the disability sector to implement the reforms, including consultation on any legislative changes required.
Minister Robert says, “We acknowledge 2020 has been a challenging year for many people with disability. The Government has been focused on ensuring people with disability remain safe and continue to receive the essential disability supports they require.”
In a statement, peak advocacy group, People With Disability Australia, (PWDA) welcomed the reforms and said they look forward to working with the Australian Government on improving the NDIS.
“These recommendations are a step in the right direction, providing key changes that will go a long way to making the NDIS less complex, and ensuring people with disability have more advocacy support to fairly access and navigate the Scheme", says PWDA.
“We particularly want to work with the Australian Government on reforming the Supported Independent Living (SIL) program, to make it a fully person-centred approach to the provision of housing and supports.
“We are pleased to see an increase in funding from the Government on their proposal to strengthen their outreach with people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, culturally and linguistically diverse and psychosocial backgrounds. We hope that the Government will commit to working with advocacy and community-based organisations in this process.
“We also want to work with the Government as they introduce the Participant Service Guarantee, so the changes improve the quality and timeliness of people’s plans.
“To make these changes successful, we need full and proper engagement with people with disability.”
Shadow Minister for the NDIS, Bill Shorten, said on Twitter that a review should not have been needed for changes to be made.
“But this seven year old [Government] should not have needed a review to know that ripping $4.6b from the NDIS, having a weak disability watchdog and an invisible Minister would end in chaos.”
Independent reviews announced
As part of the announced reforms, independent assessments of people with disability will be rolled out.
According to the NDIS, independent assessments will focus on gathering accurate information about the individual’s support needs and the impact of their disability on their daily life, replacing the need for the participant to provide individual assessment reports from therapists and specialists for their review.
Minister Robert says independent assessments will deliver a simpler, faster and fairer approach for determining a person’s eligibility, developing more flexible and equitable support packages, and that he would ensure people with disability have a seat at the table when it comes to implementing these reforms.
Some consumers have voiced concerns about the reforms with one Twitter user saying, “The NDIS is becoming just as hard, if not worse, to access than the DSP (Disability Support Pension).”
The Australian Government’s formal response to the Tune Review can be found on the Department of Social Services website.