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Disability advocacy group calls for clarity on proposed NDIS reforms

NDIS building
Photo: Dreamstime

Australia’s disability advocacy group is concerned some proposed reforms to the legislation underpinning the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) are too vague and could lead to a range of negative impacts for people on the scheme as well as how the program is administered.

On 9 September, the Government released the long-awaited proposed changes to the NDIS Act for a short period of consultation which ends today. The proposed changes are based on David Tune’s 2019 Independent Review of the NDIS Act, which aim to give participants more choice and flexibility.

In a submission responding to the proposed changes, People With Disability Australia commended the government for implementing some of the Tune Review’s most important recommendations but expressed concern about how some measures could lead to poorer governance of the program as well as impact on the NDIS co-design process and the rights of people with disability to self-determination.

PWDA CEO Sebastian Zagarella: “We’re pleased that the proposed amendments include the introduction of a Participant Service Guarantee, which will set clear timeframes for key NDIS processes – such as approving or amending an NDIS plan – as well as holding the scheme’s administrators to a set of engagement principles in relation to how it treats NDIS participants.

“However, the proposed amendments also have the potential to make NDIS participants worse off, such as giving the CEO of the National Disability Insurance Agency very broad powers to change participants plans without consent. The proposed legislation also provides the NDIA with the ability to apply the very broad term of ‘unreasonable risk’ in relation to plan management rules.

“Both these aspects require more clarity to ensure people with disability don’t lose our autonomy to manage our supports. The precise purpose of the proposed new executive powers needs further clarity and the specific situations in which these powers may be enacted needs to be clearly articulated. And the term ‘unreasonable risk’ needs to be unpacked further so we can be confident that it’s application won’t harm our choice and control.

“We also think that while proposed new powers to undertake market intervention on behalf of participants are a good measure in principle, we’re concerned that in practice such interventions might not always deliver the best outcomes for NDIS participants, particularly for those in rural and remote areas. Again, we’d like to see more clarity in the legislation to address these concerns.

“The proposed changes also miss a key opportunity to clarify the jurisdiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), and to simplify the experience for people with disability looking to review plans and seek appeal at the AAT. We think the new bill should ensure that the AAT can consider all matters concerning a participant’s plan on appeal rather than being limited to reviewing only specific aspects. This would avoid costly jurisdictional disputes between the AAT and NDIA that take up valuable time and resources and leave participants worse off.”

“Finally, we’d like to see a provision that more people with disability are NDIS board members, not merely people with ‘lived experience’ of disability. We think the NDIS legislation should mandate a number of positions on the board for people with disability or who are d/Deaf. There should be nothing about us without us.”

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