Dear Mr Hoffman
I received my copy of your open letter to all NDIS participants at 4.02pm today.
Throughout the letter, you use the term “independent assessments” despite the whole disability sector having advised you that the NDIA’s contracted assessments are not “independent”. Insisting on calling them “independent” when they are not independent at all is classic “Yes Minister” conduct. Your failure to acknowledge and refusal to respect the views of the disability community shows you are not interested in improving the NDIS for the people who depend on it.
Notably, the Service Charter and Improvement Plan that you released in August also avoid recognition and respect for the views of the disability sector.
In your letter you say, “We’ve done this because we’ve heard from you …”. But clearly you have not heard from us – you listened very selectively, and you are now using our words against us.
Your message sends us a clear message that you are not interested in constructive feedback; that dissenting voice will not be heard.
You claim that your changes will make the NDIS “simpler, faster and fairer”. That may be the case from your perspective, but not from ours. For many people who currently qualify for the NDIS on the basis of an extensive and often costly diagnosis process(es) for their ASD, the addition of a further cursory functional assessment from an NDIA contracted assessor is further complication and delay: it is not simpler or faster. And when it delivers an outcome against access to the NDIS, it adds the further complication of an AAT appeal, a step that many people are not willing to take. This is very unfair.
The only thing that “free” NDIA contracted assessors will do is sometimes overturn ASD diagnoses (from expert clinicians who spent the time needed to complete an ASD diagnosis) that people have already paid for.
You say, “These assessors will all be trained in using the same set of assessment tools to make sure everyone is treated in a fair and consistent way”. In the disability sector we are extremely familiar with this concept, as the following well known figures show.
Your letter says, “The tools have been designed to assess the capability of people with disability and used all over the world for many years”. The NDIA has been mis-using the PEDI-CAT to “assess” autistic children for years. New documents suggest you may use the PEDI-CAT ASD in future but the PEDI-CAT ASD is not “used all over the world” because it still hasn’t been verified … and the NDIA is keeping its report from the Autism CRC secret, which shows you already failed your No. 1 commitment in your new “Participant service Charter” to transparency.
Your claim that “If you do not agree with an NDIA decision from an independent assessment you can request a review or appeal” shows you simply do not understand that many vulnerable people are simply unable to appeal NDIS decisions because it puts them in legal conflict with the Government. Many of them are not prepared to go there, so your actions to make this an essential step for more NDIS participants is very unfair for the most vulnerable people who you are meant to be helping.
You claim, “You will still have choice over the providers and types of supports you need to pursue your goals”. Despite the issue having been raised repeatedly, NDIS LACs and planners are still telling autistic participants that “the NDIS does not fund ABA”, in other words they tell families that they do not have choice and they cannot access evidence-based best practice. Of course, that is a lie: the AAT made rulings that require the NDIS to fund ABA at least for those who challenge the NDIS. There are also many secret AAT settlements where the NDIS pays for ABA … but the NDIS keeps them secret. So much for “transparency”.
The NDIA introduced its contracted assessments without proper consultation. Rather than addressing issues, it is creating issues.
You and the NDIA show that you are oblivious to constructive feedback.
The NDIS will not improve unless the NDIA starts to engage with people in the disability sector.
Convenor, Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia (A4)
Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia, known as A4, is the national grassroots organisation advocating for autistic people, their families, carers and associates. A4 is internet based so that Australians anywhere can participate.
Note for politicians and bureaucrats – Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia's policy on unanswered questions is available at https://a4.org.au/node/1419.
“The first step in solving any problem is recognising there is one.” Jeff Daniels as Will McEvoy in The Newsroom.
On 13/10/2020 4:02 pm, National Disability Insurance Agency wrote: