Independent assessments should be optional only, AQA argues

08.04.21 06:43 PM By Ian
AQA has submitted a case to the Australian Parliament opposing the compulsory introduction of independent assessments for NDIS participants, arguing that the initiative should instead be made optional.

The National Disability Insurance Agency, which operates the NDIS, has announced that independent assessments will be mandatory for new applicants from the middle of this year, and for NDIS participants from next year when they require plan reviews.

The assessments are to be conducted by allied health professionals supplied by private contractors to the Federal Government. They will assess the degree to which a person’s disability affects their capacity to function. 

Assessments will be based on interviews of about three-hours, and participants won’t be charged for them. They will replace assessments from health professionals whom participants engage privately.

AQA made its case in a submission to the Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS, which has opened an inquiry into the new assessment process.

AQA’s submission argues that the NDIA has not explained clearly why the existing process needs to be changed, and has not shown that the new process will be a change for the better.

It observes that in relying solely on assessors who have no prior relationship with those assessed, the new process introduces risks for participants.

It argues that those risks will be greater for people with complex disabilities, and for people whose first language is not English, and that they extend to the scheme’s reputation, among Australians and internationally. 

The submission acknowledges that the new process could cut financial and other costs for participants, as the NDIA has proposed.

It recommends that independent assessments be introduced on an opt-in basis, with monitoring of their performance and more effective, and transparent, communication with NDIS participants.

“This would allow positive aspects of the initiative to be realised, such as reducing financial burden and access constraints for some, while not negatively affecting or disadvantaging many,” the submission concludes.

The NDIA website carries information on independent assessments, including an FAQ page. It says the agency is still working on design and implementation, and will work with participants, their families and carers, and the disability sector “to ensure we get these changes right”.

Recent media reports have highlighted criticism the initiative has met from a range of disability support organisations.

- Ian Baker
Download the full AQA submission