Joint media release: NO CHOICE AND NO VOICE Mooted NDIS changes slammed

26 March 2021

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) and Advocacy for Inclusion (AFI) have joined forces to slam the proposed changes to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Act reported in the media today. A copy of a draft of legislation amending the Act was issued by the Shadow Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Hon. Bill Shorten MP this afternoon.

The Head of Policy at the ACT Council of Social Service, Craig Wallace, said “While we note that the Federal Minister has said this is one of a number of drafts being prepared, this appalling document gives a troubling insight into the direction and planning of the Government’s reforms.

“It’s ironic that the draft talks about people with disability being central in ‘co-design’ of the NDIS but the reforms smash choice and control in the scheme and show that the government is not listening to the voices of people with disability.

“The draft legislation mandates the Government’s regime of intrusive independent assessments including saying people can be ‘required’ rather than ‘requested’ to undergo psychiatric examinations. People with disability involved in the trial have already spoken out about being subjected to a barrage of intrusive questions about everything from our sex lives to how we have a shower. The disability sector has repeatedly called for these plans to go back to the drawing board.

“It is concerning that the role of the states and territories and others is being minimised and the proposed changes centralise power in the Federal Minister.

“Another area of concern is that funding is not to be used for what is being described as ordinary living expenses – they prescribe funding of goods or services that the Minister ‘considers’ are more appropriately funded elsewhere. This seems designed to rule out support for sexual expression. Disability groups have been united in their calls for a rights based framework for sexuality in the NDIS. It’s about time politicians stopped worrying about the personal lives of disabled people and started paying attention to the standards of behaviour at Parliament House.

“We are very concerned that the draft appears to tighten the set of conditions which constitute developmental delay, including removing ones attributable to a physical and mental impairment. While this requires further analysis, we would be very concerned to see the removal of early intervention supports for conditions like Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders or Acquired Brain Injury as suggested in media reports today.

“We agree with statements from disability peaks that NDIS support should not be stripped away from target population groups, especially Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people. Removing Acquired Brain Injury would also impact female survivors of domestic violence.

“It is further disturbing that the draft legislation shows the Government considered the removal of the concept of providing ‘reasonable and necessary’ supports within the scheme, a keystone of the NDIS since 2013. While the Minister made comments today that this will not happen, we are concerned that Government would even consider changes which would mean supports would be provided at the whim of the Minister rather than a test we can all apply.

“The draft says in a number of places that the ‘relationship between people with disabilities and their families and carers needs to be recognised and respected’ in scheme funding. While it is important that these relationships are respected, the wording in the draft raises concerns about the autonomy of young people and people with disabilities to make decisions about their own lives, relationships and living arrangements where this relationship is not working well.

“We call on Government to go back to the drawing board and listen to the voices of people with disability who have called [pdf] for these intrusive independent assessments to be scrapped. The Government should strengthen the choice and control of people with disabilities, rather than making a grab for even more power in the NDIS,” Mr Wallace concluded.

Nicolas Lawler, CEO of Advocacy for Inclusion added that:

“AFI has been advocating to state and federal representatives about our concerns regarding potential reforms to the NDIS. The potential changes to limit access and reduce choice and control indicated in the draft legislation leaked today reinforces our fears.

“The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) could work to ease the concerns of people with disability by proactively engaging in open and comprehensive consultation processes with people with disability through all stages of the reform process.

“Alongside many disability organisations, AFI has implored the NDIA to engage in meaningful consultation with people with disability and their representatives to co-design practical and effective NDIS solutions that do not compromise the dignity and wellbeing of people with disability,” Mr Lawler concluded.

For more information or comment, please contact:

Craig Wallace, Head of Policy, ACTCOSS, on 0477 200 755 or 02 6202 7200

Carla Millner-Bradley, Office and Communications Manager, Advocacy for Inclusion, on 02 6257 4005

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