Spate of changes at NDIS

4 minute read

The agency has a new chair, a new condition to consider and a new class action lawsuit – all in the space of two weeks.

Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill Shorten certainly can’t be accused of resting on his laurels through the second half of September.

Over the last two weeks there have been a slew of changes and goings-on at the NDIS – some positive, some negative and some neutral.

Non-structural home modifications

The most recent development was the announcement that the government had simplified the approval process for minor, non-structural modifications to participant homes.

Previously, if an NDIS participant wanted to make a home modification of less than $20,000 – e.g. widening an internal door, installing shower rails or putting in long-handled taps – they were required to provide their planner with quotes from at least one builder and recommendations from a home modification assessor.

Now, when the National Disability Insurance Agency agrees on proposed changes the funds will automatically be made available for the participant to use on a suitable provider.

“The process will be more transparent and will make it easier for the NDIA to progress these requests, meaning participants won’t have to worry about delays with chasing up quotes, and can instead get on with modifying their home and living their lives,” Mr Shorten said.


Mr Shorten has also asked the NDIA to investigate whether people diagnosed with ADHD should be eligible for the insurance scheme.

The decision to look into whether the condition should be covered came hot on the heels of a National Press Club address from comedian Em Rusciano, who used the platform to discuss her ADHD diagnosis.

The minister admitted that there was a lack of clarity in terms of which neurodivergent conditions can be covered by the NDIS.

“There are tens of thousands of people who are on the scheme who are diagnosed with autism as their primary condition,” he said.

“Neurodivergence is an area where the eligibility requirements are not always clear and they depend on individual circumstances.”

Anecdotally, there has been a surge in the number of adult women being diagnosed with ADHD over the last two and a half years.

PBS data shows a three-fold rise in methylphenidate prescriptions over the last decade.

The first evidence-based clinical guidelines on ADHD, endorsed by the National Health and Medical Research Council, are set to be released next week.

New board chair

Wheelchair racer Kurt Fearnley, known for crawling the Kokoda Track, will replace Dr Denis Napthine as chairman of the NDIA board.

Dr Napthine resigned in July this year – shortly after former CEO Martin Hoffman, who believed GPs had too much empathy to be involved in NDIS assessments – but will remain on the board.

Mr Fearnley, who was an independent advisor during the scheme’s rollout, said trust was integral to the scheme.

Mr Shorten also appointed two new board members, Graeme Innes and Maryanne Diamond, who both have lived experience with disability.

Former ministerial advisor Rebecca Falkingham will become NDIA CEO.

Ms Falkingham is currently secretary of the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety and has previously worked with the domestic violence sector.

Earlier this year, she was the subject of an article in The Age after overseeing what the paper called a “brutal clean-out of the [Victorian Department of Justice’s] executive ranks”.

At the time, Ms Falkingham said her actions were not unusual and sent a strong signal about a change of priorities.

Class action

A Sydney-based legal practice announced last week that it will lead a class action suit on behalf of people 65 years and older who have been denied access to the NDIS.

The NDIS only covers people under the age of 65, after which point people with a disability are transition into the aged care scheme.

Mr Shorten said that when the NDIS was set up, aged care was a superior system to disability care.

“Problem is, of course, there’s been nine years of Coalition government since then and … the tables have turned a bit and aged care has in parts of its operations fallen in a rut,” he told media.

“The NDIS, despite all of the challenges, it is still a scheme which looks better for people in aged care than what they have.”

While the minister would not directly comment on the proposed lawsuit, he said that including people over the age of 65 in the NDIS would be a very expensive proposal.

The NDIS cost around $28.5 billion last financial year, and it is one of the top five areas where government spending is increasing faster than standard costs in other areas.

Mr Shorten denied that he had been asked to find ways to save on the scheme.

“It’s not that getting value for money isn’t important,” he said, “but I think that when you invest in people with disability, that’s not a burden.”

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