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NDIS Autism Access Criteria Tightened Due to Increased Costs

This potential change has sparked discussions about the impact on families, and advocates emphasised the need for a balanced approach. The federal government plans to raise the bar for children with autism to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) due to cost blowouts. People with autism and developmental delays account for 45 percent of NDIS participants, costing taxpayers $42 billion (US$27.5 billion) this financial year and $90 billion by 2030. Research by the Australian National University’s Maathu Ranjan said it is “plausible” that diagnosis of autism is higher in Australia than in any other country because of financial incentives; the average autism participant receives about $34,000 per year on the scheme. NDIS Minister Bill Shorten is reviewing the scheme and called for “clarity around entry” for people with autism. “We just want to move away from diagnosis writing you into the scheme because what happens is everyone gets the diagnosis,” he said. “We must make sure the NDIS is working as was intended.” He said there are a few ways the scheme isn’t working as planned, which is to help people with profound disabilities get help with their core functioning. Some people are taking money meant for participants for their own profit, while some service providers offer inappropriate services. He added kids who have severe developmental delays must get early interventions based on the best evidence, not “junk therapies.” Therefore, he said the scheme needed more focus on a child’s needs. “Our aim is to [make it a] more human experience. We are completely committed to the power of early intervention. We just want to make sure that the early intervention is actually meaningful, and that families and participants and kids are not just being billed for hour upon hour of service, which, frankly, isn’t adding to the developmental outcomes for a child,” he said. Instead, he said there should be a better experience for people with disability in schools, transport, and employment. “The whole thing that it takes to support people rather than just saying, I must get to the NDIS.” The scheme’s new eligibility criteria will be out in early December after the federal government has discussed it with state and territory premiers.
Impact on Daily Functions
Meanwhile, leading autism researcher Professor Andrew Whitehouse weighed in, saying the eligibility criteria will be based on the question: “What is the actual effect of the disability on your day-to-day functioning?” However, he said there would still be kids with developmental challenges that are not eligible and they would require help from other systems. “So this recalibration will only be effective if other systems pick up that slack, and that will be state health and education systems,” he told ABC radio.
He said the education system would likely offer inclusive support for children within the classroom. “When we’re talking about reigning in spending, really what we’re talking about is realigning how we provide funding to different areas of health, education and disability.” Opposition Calls for Greater Transparency on NDIS for Parents
However, Shadow Education Minister Sarah Henderson said the government needed to be more transparent to parents about the NDIS changes. “Parents deserve much better from this government, including assurances that the now minister gave before the last election,” she told Sky News Australia. She said Mr. Shorten promised that the NDIS would be sustainable that he would manage its growth, which has ballooned in recent years. “Now he is keeping secret a report into the NDIS,” she said. “The government has been playing politics with the NDIS for far too long, and it is about time that the minister came clean, particularly with NDIS participants.”
At the same time, the Australian Greens said the scheme is “vital” and should continue to support children with autism. Green Disability Rights spokesperson, Senator Jordon Steele-John said, “We’ve never seen less access to GPs, we’ve never seen public schools so under-resourced, and now the government is threatening to take away a lifeline for autistic kids and their families: their NDIS supports.” He said removing this “lifeboat” was actively pushing disabled people “into the sea” and sending “shivers down the spine” of families. Further, he accused the government of trying to remove the service to balance its budget off the backs of disabled people. He also raised concerns about the education system picking up the slack because they’re underfunded. “The disabled community are calling on all levels of government to properly fund the NDIS, expand investment in Medicare, and resource our public schools,” he said.

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