By bobb | Mon, 4/12/2023 - 14:36
Amber Schultz

Children with neurodevelopmental delays risk having the number of supports they access slashed by two-thirds if new restrictions are brought into the National Disability Insurance Scheme to address cost blowouts, a new paper has found.

Autism rates in Australian children are among the highest in the world, and more than 75 per cent of NDIS participants under 18, and 45 per cent overall, have autism or developmental delay, which can often precede an autism diagnosis.

Families who need help with development delay are driven to the NDIS for support.

Families who need help with development delay are driven to the NDIS for support.CREDIT:ISTOCK

A new paper assessing caregivers of children who attended the child development unit at the Children’s Hospital Westmead found on average children with autism on the NDIS access 5.2 support services, while those without access just 2.7.

Caregivers with access to the NDIS were more likely to use speech therapists, occupational therapy, physical therapy and behavioural management therapies, the study found, while not having access to the NDIS nearly tripled the number of financial barriers families faced.

Report author Professor Adam Guastella, the Michael Crouch chair for child and youth mental health at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre in Westmead, said without extra state-funded support, children risked missing out on crucial services.

“It demonstrates that if the criteria are to be restricted, then other health and education services will need to step up to fill the massive gap that’s going to be left,” he said.

“There would have to be a seismic shift in supports in education and health services for these services to meet the needs of families and children.”

Guastella warned not having access to support can affect the long-term future of children and families.

Around 12 per cent of 5- to 7-year-old boys and 5 per cent of 5- to 7-year-old girls are on the NDIS, prompting NDIS Minister Bill Shorten to call on states to do more to support children with autism or developmental delay.

“Autism is a genuine diagnosis and what many people don’t understand is that its impacts come in a spectrum – each person’s experience with autism will be very different. That’s why there needs to be a strengthening of cooperation and proper investment in the disability support ecosystem, be it at the state level through schools, housing and community supports, or through the NDIS, and by society not stigmatising autism,” he said.

“We can’t afford to let kids with autism fall through the gaps any longer – the NDIS cannot be the only place where families receive support.”

An independent review into the NDIS is set to be released before Wednesday’s National Cabinet, where Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will press the states to take greater responsibility for funding the treatment of early developmental disorders and mild autism, particularly within schools.

School leaders have warned that extra federal funding will be required to meet the needs of students with a disability.

The number of NDIS participants has more than doubled since 2019, with 631,000 people accessing the scheme in the previous quarter.

National cabinet previously agreed on an 8 per cent growth target for the total cost of the scheme by July 2026.

The NDIS costs $35 billion per year.

from https://www.theage.com.au/national/what-cutting-ndis-funded-autism-support-will-mean-for-families-20231201-p5eof5.html