Members Policy Hub – NDIS Independent Assessments

In November 2020, Mental Health Australia hosted a Members Policy Hub on National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Independent Assessments. Members Policy Hubs are short term ‘sprint teams’ drawn together from Mental Health Australia’s membership to address key current policy issues. 

In 2021, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is introducing Independent Assessments for prospective NDIS participants and for some current participants at plan review. The NDIA states the assessments will be free and carried out by independent assessors with relevant skills and expertise, and therefore aim to save prospective participants time and money in gathering evidence to qualify for the Scheme.

The NDIA has indicated it will be consulting with the disability sector on the implementation of Independent Assessments. Mental Health Australia ran this Members Policy Hub to ensure the input we provide to the NDIA on this issue is an accurate reflection of the issues and proposed solutions offered by mental health and psychosocial disability sector stakeholders.

Members policy hub participants informed us of their concerns that the proposed process of implementation of NDIS Independent Assessments does not align with a recovery-oriented approach. Independent Assessors, who do not have an existing relationship with the person being assessed, and or who don’t have the necessary skills and experience in working with someone who has a psychosocial disability may not be best placed to assess their functional capacity. In addition, the use of the designated assessment tools and the process for their use runs the risk of an assessment which doesn’t accurately reflect the complexity of psychosocial disability. While the cost-free nature of Independent Assessments addresses a significant financial barrier to NDIS access, it does not address other important barriers faced by people with psychosocial disability such as language barriers, cultural barriers, locational barriers and the functional impacts of psychosocial disability itself.

Mental Health Australia’s resulting policy paper proposes solutions to address these issues, including an offer to collaborate with the NDIA to build flexibility into the assessment process for people with psychosocial disability who will not benefit from Independent Assessments. Mental Health Australia also makes recommendations around consultation and transparency, including the provision of information to consumers about consumer rights, embedding a recovery oriented approach in the assessment process and removing some of the further barriers people with psychosocial disability will face in accessing assessments.

Mental Health Australia looks forward to continuing to work with members to understand the issues associated with implementation of NDIS Independent Assessments. We also look forward to working with the NDIA to assist in improving the proposed implementation method for assessing NDIS eligibility.

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