The three-hour appointments will be used to “determine the significance of a person’s disability”, the scheme’s website says, and help the agency make “fair and consistent decisions” about who is eligible for funding through the scheme.
The assessments will be conducted by a panel of private providers such as psychologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech pathologists – but not the person’s usual therapists.
It was revealed last year a survey to justify the introduction of independent assessments included just 35 National Disability Insurance Scheme participants.
A coalition of 20 disability organisations issued a statement earlier this month warning the step could lead to false comparisons between individual NDIS participants. People with Disability Australia president Samantha Connor last month called for trials of independent assessments to be halted and for the government to instead engage in a “meaningful co-design process”.
A spokesman for newly appointed NDIS Minister, Linda Reynolds, said in a statement the review was conducted independently by Mr Tune and the government “respected his independence at all stages”.
“Mr Tune was provided with a small secretariat team to assist him in compiling the report, as is often the case with independent reviews of this complexity, but this in no way undermines his independence,” the spokesman said. Mr Tune was contacted for comment.
More than 400,000 Australians are being supported by the $25 billion scheme, which is jointly funded by the Commonwealth and state and territory governments.
Opposition’s NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten said it appeared the “sham” report was designed and authored by the government with “one purpose alone”, which was “to steamroll through cuts to NDIS services and ignore the voices of the 430,000 people living with a disability who use the system”.
“The sham independent report is in line with the government’s secret plans to make radical cuts to the NDIS and use sham consultations to push through the compulsory assessments, despite the opposition from the entire disability sector,” Mr Shorten said.
The Morrison government responded to the Tune review of the NDIS Act on August 28 last year, saying it supported or supported in principle all 29 recommendations made in the report.
Former NDIS and government services minister, Stuart Robert, consistently argued proposed changes to the scheme would make it more responsive and fairer for participants and their carers.
“Independent assessments are a fair and consistent way of ensuring new and existing participants receive more flexibility and greater choice and control over the reasonable and necessary supports provided through the scheme,” he said in December.
“It is estimated independent assessments will save people with disability and their families collectively up to $170 million per year in out of pocket expenses.”
Mr Shorten said the opposition wanted Senator Reynolds to stop the compulsory assessments and make the NDIS work for people living with a disability.
“This is her first test and one the entire disability sector want her to pass,” Mr Shorten said.
Rob Harris is the National Affairs Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra