A list of psychologists approved by the federal government to offer autism diagnosis and treatment services disappeared from the internet around the same time the National Disability Insurance Agency began telling people their diagnoses were invalid unless performed by a clinical psychologist.
The Autism Spectrum Disorder practitioner list, maintained by the Australian Psychological Society as a federal government requirement, included psychologists from a range of fields, not just clinical professionals.
The Weekend Australian has learned staff at the $22 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme have told current and potential participants — including teenagers and adults — that their diagnoses need to be reassessed because they had not been carried out by a clinical psychologist.
This contradicts the NDIA’s own expert advice from the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism, for which the agency paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, that states a diagnosis is relevant if given by a clinical psychologist or by an educational and developmental psychologist.
In many cases, the NDIA has avoided writing down this requirement, instead telling participants over the phone.
An email from the Australian Psychological Society on May 5 informed members the practitioner list would no longer be available because “the government no longer uses the list for identification of psychologists providing Helping Children with Autism services”.
“Now these … services are currently transitioning into the NDIS with a full transition to be completed in 2018.”
The APS has refused to provide a copy of the list to its members.
That email was sent just weeks before the NDIA accidentally published an update to its website removing some autistic people from a list of conditions that gain automatic entry to the disability scheme. Although the agency said this was a mistake, The Weekend Australian revealed in May that managers have been planning for more than six months to curb the prevalence of autism in the scheme. Currently, 29 per cent of participants in the scheme have autism, tens of thousands of them are children. The Productivity Commission projected the proportion would be 20 per cent.
“The NDIS now has its own process for assessing health professionals for eligibility to provide particular services. Hence, the Autism and PDD Provider List was redundant,” a spokeswoman for the APS said.
“With regards to the NDIS requirement that only clinical psychologists can undertake autism assessments, the basis for this decision by the NDIS was unclear to us as we were not consulted.
“We sought clarification and were advised that when the new national autism guidelines are released by the NDIA they will reflect the advice of the advisory council that assessments not be limited to clinical psychologists, and that the website will be updated to reflect this position.”
A spokesman for the NDIA did not comment on whether the agency had told participants they needed assessments done by a clinical psychologist only. “The NDIA has not made any changes to the NDIS access requirements for autism nor issued advice to psychologists regarding ASD diagnosis,” he said. “Any person with autism eligible for the NDIS will receive the reasonable and necessary supports they need.”