The Morrison government has unveiled a raft of proposed changes designed to improve the National Disability Insurance Scheme, two months after abandoning its highly controversial plan to subject participants to mandatory independent assessments.
The timing of its release has already been criticised by ACT Minister for Disability Emma Davidson, who wants the four-week consultation period extended to allow proper input from states and territories battling coronavirus outbreaks.
The federal government has been planning major changes to the NDIS since the release of David Tune's landmark review of the scheme in 2019.
The package of changes unveiled on Thursday is a far cry from the suite of controversial reforms the government had initially hoped to introduce in the second half of 2021.
The centrepiece of those reforms, the introduction of compulsory independent assessment for all NDIS participants, was sensationally dumped in early July in the face of intense opposition from the states and territories, disability groups, academics, Labor and the Greens.
Other mooted changes, including measures which would have diluted the powers of the states, were revealed in leaked draft legislation, the final version of which was never made public let alone introduced to parliament.
NDIS Linda Reynolds and her state and territory counterparts agreed after dumping independent assessment to develop a new "person-centred" model for evaluating the functional capacity of participants.
The package unveiled on Thursday doesn't include a new assessment model.
The main feature is the introduction of a new Participant Service Guarantee, which was among the key recommendations from the Tune review.
The guarantee will hold the National Disability Insurance Agency accountable to certain standards, including timeframes for decision on participant plans.
The agency will be required to report against the standards, while the Commonwealth Ombudsman will have the power to audit its performance.
Public consultation on the proposed reforms is open until midnight on October 7. The government will consider feedback before introducing the draft changes to the Federal Parliament.
Ms Davidson criticised the government for only allowing a four-week window for public feedback while Victoria, NSW and the ACT were battling COVID outbreaks, saying it didn't demonstrate a commitment to genuine consultation.
The Greens minister called on Senator Reynolds to show leadership and compassion and extend the consultation until the end of the year.
"This is a distressing time for many people in the community and they are focused on the urgent need to keep people with disability safe and supported," she told The Canberra Times.
Asked to comment on Ms Davidson's request, Senator Reynolds said consultation would close as planned on October 7.
She said the states and territories had been provided advance copies of the changes on Tuesday, and were offered briefings on Wednesday.
"I look forward to working with the disability community as well as state and territory governments on draft amendments on how we can improve participant experience with the NDIS," she said.
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