Government scraps proposed NDIS changes

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The federal government has given up on its plan to bring in independent assessments for NDIS recipients with critics saying the decision is a win for person-centred care.

At a meeting with state and territory ministers on Friday, Minister for Social Services Linda Reynolds agreed not to make any legislative changes to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, committing to consult on any future amendments.

Ms Reynolds was seeking in-principle support from her state and territory counterparts for amendments to the scheme, with the aim of reigning in the annual cost of the NDIS, which is projected to reach $60 billion by the end of the decade.

Several states and territories have strongly opposed independent assessments, as well as disability advocates, Labor and the Greens.

“This is a massive win for the sector and it is clear that the voices of people with disability were heard loud and clear in today’s meeting,” ACT Minister for Disability Emma Davidson said in a Friday evening statement.

“The mood in the meeting leaned towards a person-centred approach, which the community has been advocating for, since the first trial of independent assessments.”

Her NSW, Victorian and West Australian counterparts also welcomed the government’s capitulation.

“This is an enormous win for NDIS participants, their families and their carers,” WA disability minister Don Punch said.

Independent assessments were based on “unsubstantiated financial assumptions and wholly inadequate consultation”, he said.

But in a statement on Friday evening, Ms Reynolds said she had consulted widely and spoken with many NDIS participants, their families and support workers.

The key outcomes of her meeting with state and territory ministers, from her perspective, included the agreement for independent assessments not to proceed and the Commonwealth’s commitment to “greater transparency”, she said.

“The governance structure of the NDIS, with shared control by the Commonwealth, states and territories requires a multi-partisan approach,” Ms Reynolds said.

“After eight years of operations, now is the time to take the lessons of the lived experience and turn those lessons into a better NDIS”.

Until now, the federal government has said it was determined to introduce independent assessments for NDIS participants and applications.

Senator Reynolds has previously said independent assessments were not a unique reform and that all other workplace injury and disability insurance schemes had similar systems in place.

NDIS senior manager of state and territory operations Karen Stace spoke to the ABC on Friday evening and did not give an opinion on the scrapping of independent assessments.

She said the agency was encouraged by state and territory statements about co-designing the scheme with the disability sector.

Opposition spokesman for the NDIS Bill Shorten said the development was welcome news for thousands of Australians who had been worried about how their support would be calculated.

“It’s a big win,” he told AAP.

Mr Shorten said the government had wanted to reduce the NDIS to less individually tailored care, limiting it to three or four types of “welfare” packages.

“Independent assessments would have forced 500,000 permanently and significantly disabled Australians to go through an assessment with a stranger so the government could cut their supports or remove them from the NDIS,” he said in a statement.

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