CANBERRA, Australia — Planned changes to how Australians gain access to disability support will “blow up” the national scheme, a key architect of the original program has warned.
Australians have long urged the Morrison government with disabilities, their carers, and advocates to abandon the introduction of independent assessments for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
It would change how decisions are made for people set to receive support and alter how much support Australians already on National Disability Insurance Scheme plans to receive.
Newly minted National Disability Insurance Scheme Minister Linda Reynolds has promised to consult with the sector and assess feedback on independent assessments before locking them in.
Melbourne Disability Institute director Bruce Bonyhady — who helped design the National Disability Insurance Scheme — has urged the government to immediately stop trials of the independent assessments, which he refers to as “Robo-planning”.
“Independent assessments are not independent,” he informed a parliamentary inquiry on April 23.
“Robo-planning will blow up the National Disability Insurance Scheme. And it will also blow up the vision for this scheme to be there for all Australians.”
Professor Bonyhady said the change would tear up the social contract at the heart of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which is that individualized support is available for all Australians who have a disability.
He warned of anxiety and anger among people with disabilities.
Trust between the community and the National Disability Insurance Agency, which runs the National Disability Insurance Scheme, has reached new lows.
“Which is extraordinary given that the National Disability Insurance Agency exists for one purpose and one purpose only — to serve people with disability, their families and carers,” Bonyhady said.
“The trials should therefore be abandoned immediately before they cause further needless stress.”
Among his main concerns is that the National Disability Insurance Agency wants to ensure decisions made by independent planners cannot be appealed.
“With no transparency, robo-planning could be used to exclude participants, cut plans, or change the National Disability Insurance Scheme eligibility criteria,” Bonyhady said.
“And the National Disability Insurance Agency would not be able to be held to account for such actions.”
The changes would result in the National Disability Insurance Scheme participants undergoing assessments from government-approved doctors to decide what level of help they need.
Independent assessments would also be required for people having their plans reviewed, with concerns the government would use them as a cost-cutting measure.
Children and Young People with Disability Australia chief Mary Sayers said the National Disability Insurance Scheme was as critical as Medicare.
“The independent assessments reform proposed by the National Disability Insurance Agency not only fails to address existing implementation issues, but it will reinforce and exacerbate existing inequalities and create new ones,” she said.
“After Australia has taken so many steps towards providing more dignified and appropriate supports for people with disability, the introduction of independent assessments under the National Disability Insurance Scheme is one giant leap backward.”
(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Ritaban Misra)
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