OTA's response to the NDIS legislation amendments

Published Wednesday 5 June 2024

Occupational Therapy Australia (OTA) opposes the passage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Getting the NDIS Back on Track No. 1) Bill 2024 in its current form, even with recent amendments. 

OTA is concerned that the Government has moved to introduce this legislation without providing a clear picture of the future state of the Australian disability system. OTA recommends that Government provides a detailed response to the NDIS Review and the Disability Royal Commission Final Report before proposing any changes to NDIS legislation. We also call on Government to release economic modelling to provide the Parliament and public with more detailed information on the expected economic impacts of this Bill, and the impact on participants’ scheme access, NDIS plans, and access to services. 

This detail is also critical to guarantee the future of the NDIS provider market. Occupational therapists working under the NDIS have endured more than 10 years of constant change leaving many stressed, burnt out and contemplating exiting the NDIS sector. This Bill creates uncertainty and anxiety for participants and providers and amplifies the conditions for possible market failure. 

The current Senate committee inquiry into this Bill has highlighted several critical concerns, which we believe must be addressed through careful consideration and further amendments. Below are the key areas where we seek changes to ensure the legislation serves the best interests of NDIS participants and the occupational therapy profession.

Needs assessments

The Bill should explicitly require that new proposed needs assessments are conducted by appropriately qualified professionals. Without this stipulation, there is a risk that unqualified staff may make life-changing decisions about individuals' daily lives, support services and personal safety.

Needs reassessments

The Bill currently grants excessive power to the NDIA CEO to order needs reassessments, which could possibly reduce or even terminate NDIS supports. OTA recommends that stronger checks and balances are implemented within the Bill to ensure reassessment powers are not used inappropriately.

We also recommend that the Bill explicitly requires the NDIA to provide written notice (or an accessible format) to participants detailing the grounds for reassessment before it is undertaken. The need for reassessment should also be confirmed as a reviewable decision, which would allow participants to decline reassessment on reasonable grounds. There should also be a mandated minimum time period specified between reassessments to prevent them from occurring too frequently, causing stress for participants.

Provision of information

The new power for the NDIS CEO to request information from participants, with the risk of access being cut off for non-compliance, lacks adequate safeguards. 

Protections must be ensured for individuals with complex disabilities who may be unable to meet information requests within set timeframes. The NDIA should be required to ensure suitable supports are in place before revoking a participant’s status due to non-compliance.

NDIS supports

Section 10 of the Bill will enable the NDIA to make prescriptive Rules around what constitutes a NDIS support, which may exclude innovative, low-cost solutions that occupational therapists often devise to support participants to meet their goals. There must be more assurances in the Bill that these changes will not restrict life changing occupational therapy services and supports.

Foundational supports

OTA is also concerned about the lack of clarity or agreement from Government regarding the establishment and quality of proposed Foundational Supports, which may lead to inequality and reduced access to high-quality services, including occupational therapy.

People who don’t qualify for NDIS supports still deserve access to high-quality accessible services that help them live life the way they want, including access to occupational therapy if they need it. 

It’s not currently clear what services will be set up, where they will be, if they will be different depending on what state you live in, or when they will be established. OTA is concerned that this may create inequality for people, with Foundational Supports operating as a second, poorer quality lower tier of services.

Foundational supports should include capacity building and early intervention service models to maintain access to specialist occupational therapy services. We need more clarity on what Foundational Supports will look like, and when they will operational, before we see changes to the NDIS legislation that may divert people off the NDIS.

You may also be interested in: 

Current Issues: NDIS Read: OTA's submission on the NDIS Amendment Bill 2024

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