Disability groups warn against upcoming NDIS changes

Looming changes to the NDIS will lead to “homogenising” people with disabilities and ignore individual needs for support, advocacy groups warn.

Laws before federal parliament seeking to overhaul parts of the disability scheme would require participants to carry out fresh assessments and receive a plan and budget based on their needs.

Money provided could then only be spent in accordance with their plan unless needs significantly change, with the government also able to create a list of services available as part of NDIS funding.

The overhaul came following a review of the scheme, which aimed at curb large levels of spending growth.

Disability advocates worry changes to the NDIS are being rushed. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

As a Senate inquiry examined the laws on the second day of hearings on Wednesday, disability advocacy groups have urged the government not to race through the changes.

People with Disability Australia president Marayke Jonkers said the assessments would only entrench one view of disability and not cater to specialized support.

“The current bill is beginning to look like it is homogenizing people with disabilities because we can’t specifically spit out a system that says ‘everybody with a spinal cord injury needs X’,” she told the inquiry.

“We need the funding to match that, to match the life that we want to live, and we need to so we can have our ordinary life.”

The proposed laws follow a review, which recommended capping the scheme’s growth to eight per cent per year.

The cost of the NDIS has been predicted to rise to $50 billion by 2025/26, higher than Medicare’s annual cost.

Ms Jonkers said the NDIS reforms before parliament had the potential to make the scheme more difficult to navigate.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get this right and make life better for people who do live with disabilities, or we could make life a lot worse,” she said.

“What we can’t do is support the bill in its current form.”

Laura Henley from the Australian Federation of Disability Organizations said the NDIS changes had been rushed through without consultation with the disability community.

“Our concerns relate predominantly to .. the rushed nature and the lack of consultation and co-design surrounding the development of the bill, particularly given the lack of clarity of what foundational supports will exist outside the NDIS,” she said.

“The government is yet to provide an official response to the recommendations arising out of the NDIS review.”

Bill Shorten says the changes are urgently needed. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

NDIS Minister Bill Shorten said the changes needed to be implemented as soon as possible in order to make the scheme more sustainable.

Greens senator Jordon Steele-John, who serves on the inquiry examining the laws, said the proposal would allow the government to kick people off the NDIS.

“To pass this bill as it is now would be the end of the NDIS, and risks thousands upon thousands of disabled people experiencing harm and living a more difficult life,” he said.

“It’s going to put extra pressure on families and put the thousands of people employed within the disability sector in uncertainty.”