NDIS Minister announces Independent Assessments will not proceed

Independent assessments, which were intended to decide eligibility and funding for all NDIS participants, will not be introduced following a decision at the Disability Reform Ministers’ Meeting on 9 July.

This news was warmly welcomed by many Vision 2020 Australia members, who had expressed significant concerns that the original approach proposed to independent assessment would leave people who are blind or have low vision worse off than under current arrangements.

According to the official communique from the meeting, the Ministers noted a report released by the Independent Advisory Council to the NDIS earlier in the week, which recommended that, “Independent assessments do not proceed in the current form as conducted in the pilot and that both the independent assessments and the Personalised Budget Tool are co-designed with Council and representatives of Disability Support Organisation to be simpler, fairer, more respectful and safer for participants.”

Vision 2020 Australia has made multiple submissions over the past months regarding the proposed independent assessments, identifying a range of practical changes that would be required to address these were made to various government reviews. These will be fed into future work in this area.

“I’m grateful to the many participants, and the peak bodies who have spoken with me over the past three months to provide me with a greater understanding of their perspectives and experiences,” NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds said in her official media release following the meeting.

“This has helped to inform today’s discussions and consensus decisions.”

The Ministers have committed to the creation of a new, person-centred assessment process co-designed with the help of the Council and of other representatives from the disability sector.

In the same week, the NDIA also released their interim evaluation of the second pilot of independent assessments. While the majority of respondents to the survey rated their assessment as “excellent, very good or good.”

In an introductory letter to the report, NDIA CEO Martin Hoffman acknowledged that the Independent Advisory Council and other sector representatives had highlighted the need for improvements to the process.

“The Agency takes these, and other perspectives seriously.”

While acknowledging the problems independent assessments were designed to address, Vision 2020 Australia members were concerned that the process, as originally conceived, wouldn’t appropriately measure the functional capacity, or consistently deliver necessary supports, for people who are blind or have vision loss.

Our responses to various consultations in the last few months have highlighted the risks of using generalist assessors and tools to make decisions about the lives of people with low prevalence disabilities.

We look forward to helping to create a solution that delivers on the scheme’s promise of choice and control for all participants.

Independent assessments were a small part of a significant reform agenda for the scheme, to be delivered through a new NDIS Act.

The Disability Reform Ministers will meet again next month to consider how these reforms, many of which will be very positive for people with vision loss, should be progressed. Minister Reynolds has committed to publicly releasing draft legislation before it is introduced.