National Disability Insurance Scheme participants would have greater choice over who conducts their independent assessment under a proposed redesign of the highly contentious new system.
The agency in charge of the scheme has flagged six "proposed improvements" to the assessment model used on pilot participants, in response to damning feedback from its expert independent advisory panel and results from its second trial.
Separate reports on the trial results, the panel's advice and the agency's draft response have been published ahead of a crucial meeting on Friday, in which NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds will seek "in principle" support from her state and territory counterparts on the federal government's controversial shakeup of the scheme.
Three Labor states, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT, have this week publicly declared their opposition to the most contentious aspect of the overhaul - the introduction of compulsory independent assessments for all participants.
The changes suggested by the advisory council and agency will be discussed at the meeting, with Senator Reynolds "optimistic" that a consensus position could be reached.
While the Morrison government does not need the states' approval to proceed with all of its planned changes through Federal Parliament, Senator Reynolds has told The Canberra Times that their backing was vital to the scheme's future.
"I believe even more so now that the future of this scheme will lie in the ability to find that multi-partisanship, find consensus on a way forward," she said.
"This is not a federal scheme, it is a federation scheme.
Asked what the assessment model redesign could mean for the timeframe for attempting to introduce the new regime, Senator Reynolds said that would be "at the heart" of Friday's discussion.
"As soon as we have got consensus on the problems and the solutions then we will act," she said.
Senator Reynolds has previously stated that the specific model of independent assessments used in the trial would not procced, after a fierce backlash from disability groups, participant families, medical experts, academics, Labor and the Greens.
That position has been reinforced after Senator Reynolds and the National Disability Insurance Agency were handed advice from the scheme's independent advisory council
The council was only asked to suggest changes to the model of independent assessments, not whether independent assessments should go ahead or not.
The panel recommended that the trial model should be scrapped, replaced with a new model which was "co-designed" with the council and disability sector to be "simpler, fairer, more respectful and safer for participants".
It proposed dozens of changes, covering the conduct of assessments, oversight of results and training of assessors.
The council also recommended that Minister Reynolds hold public consultation on the draft legislation to deliver the changes for at least eight weeks.
While the trial was highly controversial, the agency's evaluation found that 70 per cent of 948 participants/supporters who responded to the feedback survey reported that their assessment experience was "excellent". About 3760 assessments had been conducted in the trial as of May 31.
The council's 36-page report said the contentious independent assessments proposal had "galvanised existing frustrations" within the disability sector, which were rooted in dissatisfaction with the "missing foundations" of the scheme.
"Major concerns expressed by representatives of the disability community include the contested views of the purpose of the reforms, the experience of participants, and the community's expectations of co-design and partnership," the report stated.
In its draft response to the council's feedback, the agency said it "fully accepted" that independent assessments should not proceed in their current form.
The agency proposed a "preliminary list" of half of dozen changes, which taken together represented a "significant evolution of the pilot model".
It flagged a more flexible approach to assessments, including options to tailor the process for participants with a history of trauma or abuse, complex needs or who required a support person.
The agency suggested a system of "skill tagging", which would allow participants to have more choice over who conducted their assessments. This could include an assessor with certain professional expertise, gender or cultural characteristic.
Options to better utilise pre-existing information about the participant, as well as improvements to the "tools" used during an assessment were also canvassed.
The agency said it would continue to consult with the disability sector to make "substantial changes and improvements" to the model used in the trial.
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