Avoiding simple solutions to complex problems: Independent Assessments are not the way to a fairer NDIS

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) People with disability Australia

The Australian government has proposed the most significant reforms of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) since its launch. One key part of this reform process is the introduction of Independent Assessments. The Independent Assessment process involves functional assessments being administered by a professional who is unknown to the child or young person. The result of an Independent Assessment then determines the funding that is allocated to the child or young person for their supports.

The government states that this approach will make funding decisions clearer and more consistent. Many critics agree that the NDIS can be inequitable and that this needs to be addressed, but also have concerns about the use of Independent Assessments as a way to address these problems. There is widespread concern that the planned Independent Assessment roll-out is underpinned by financial concerns and 'scheme sustainability', rather than making the NDIS fairer for everyone.

Researchers surveyed children and young people with disabilities and their families to understand their experiences accessing the NDIS and their thoughts on the proposed reforms. This report sets out findings from the 270 people who completed the survey between 21 January and 21 February.

While the NDIS works well for many children and young people and their families, unfortunately this is not the case for everyone. For some the NDIS is highly stressful and uncertain. Respondents reported feeling like they are in constant battles with the scheme and that there is a lack of consistency and continuity.

Overall, the research found little support for the introduction of Independent Assessments and the clear message that respondents think they will not address the issues of fairness and consistency that they are intended to achieve. Further, they will do little to address the many inequities found within the scheme and may in fact make the NDIS less fair.

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