State and territory disability ministers have shot down controversial reforms to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), in what advocates say is a huge win for the disability community.
- The federal government will not push forward with its plan to roll out independent assessments
- Disability advocates have campaigned against the changes for months
- Linda Reynolds says disability ministers will work together on a new assessments model
For months, disability advocates have been warning against the changes, which would have forced all NDIS participants and people wanting to access the scheme to undergo independent assessments.
The federal government announced its plan to introduce the functional assessments in August last year, and the NDIS has trialled the program.
But after a meeting between disability ministers today, NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds confirmed the federal government would not push ahead with the proposal.
"I can absolutely confirm that we agreed with the Independent Advisory Council's recommendation that the independent assessments in their current form will not proceed," she told the ABC.
"So are independent assessments as we currently understand them dead? Yes, they are."
The move has been welcomed by disability advocates, who had argued the independent assessments plan was not fair.
"We are glad that the state and territory disability ministers have listened to the thousands of people with disability and their families who have contacted them this week to ask them to say no to the NDIS independent assessments," said El Gibbs, from campaign group Every Australian Counts.
"We have worked together for months to raise our voices and say that these changes were wrong."
'Back to the drawing board' for NDIS assessments
The independent assessments program would have involved an allied health professional, unknown to the person with disability, either meeting with the prospective participant face-to-face or holding a teleconference assessment.
That assessment would have determined someone's eligibility for an NDIS funding plan.
Currently, a person's usual doctors, specialists and allied health professionals provide reports to determine if someone is eligible for an NDIS plan.
The federal government had always maintained that independent assessments were an original part of the NDIS and would make it fair and equitable for everyone.
But many in the disability community said it was a box-ticking exercise designed to cut costs.
Opposition to independent assessments grew steadily last year within the sector, and in February more than 20 organisations, led by Every Australian Counts, called on the government to abandon the plan.
Ms Reynolds said introducing assessments in some form was important for "fairness and equity" in accessing the NDIS.
She said while independent assessments were getting ditched, disability ministers would work together to develop a new method.
"We've agreed to work together in a way that hears more clearly the voices of those with lived experience of disability that is based on the principles of equity and fairness," she said.
"So we did agree to work together on a new model [for assessments], and I'm very grateful to them for that agreement."
The Opposition's NDIS spokesperson, Bill Shorten, said abandoning the independent assessments plan was "great news".
"Independent assessments are dead, at least dead for the time being, no laws are being put into Parliament, it's back to the drawing board," he said.