The pressure is mounting on the government to answer questions around how the controversial National Disability Insurance Scheme independent assessments will work, with advocacy groups saying they will be forced to “crawl on their hands and knees” to get support.
On Friday, hundreds of people gathered at virtual and physically distanced “snap action” events across the country, calling on the government to throw out plans that will force NDIS participants to undergo mandatory independent assessments.
The action included a physically distanced vigil at the NDIS Canberra office, with some participants even getting out of their wheelchairs to crawl on the ground to demonstrate the barriers they would be up against if the proposed changes were enforced.
NDIS participant and protest spokesperson, Craig Wallace, told Pro Bono News the action sent a loud and clear message about the measures.
“People actually getting out of their chairs and crawling on the ground is pretty unprecedented, I can’t remember anything like this happening, even during the NDIS campaign,” Wallace said.
As part of the federal government’s response to the Tune Review, the changes mean NDIS-appointed healthcare professionals would conduct one to four assessments using standardised tools to assess NDIS eligibility, instead of individuals getting reports from multiple health providers of their choosing.
But advocates fear that the initiative, to be rolled out from 2021, is a cost-cutting measure to reduce the number of people in the program.
Pressure for change ramps up
When Robert announced the changes two weeks ago, he said the independent assessments will “deliver a simpler, faster and fairer approach for determining a person’s eligibility”.
A spokesperson for the National Disability Insurance Agency also told Pro Bono News that the independent assessments would not be used to make it harder for people to access the scheme.
They said it had been part of ongoing discussions regarding improvements to the NDIS experience, including consultation with more than 40 peak health and disability bodies from across the sector.
But since then, the opposition has only grown stronger.
Synapse, a peak body for acquired brain injury, described the proposal as a “tick and flick observation method” that was “illogical and offensive” for the broader disability sector and “entirely inappropriate” for Indigenous communities.
Every Australian Counts released a list of six questions around the legitimacy of the independent assessments on Monday, urging the public to contact Robert for “straight answers not spin”.
“The minister promised to talk to people with disability and their families about this big change,” Every Australian Counts said in a statement.
“He can start by coming clean and answering some simple questions.”
Wallace said the disability community were working together well to send a strong message, but the fight was far from over.
“We are continuing to encourage people to make their voices heard, to lobby their local MPs, to highlight their stories of why this is a bad idea,” Wallace said.
“We are collecting all of these personal experiences and stories from the hundreds of people coming together to fight this, and we’ll be making sure it is in front of the government as we go forward.”