To the Australian Members of Parliament,
If we could see just one person to assess all our needs—what bliss. However, disability is complex and very specific to the individual person. People with disabilities understand all too well the need for a connected network of medical and therapy staff to diagnose and manage their health and wellbeing. I believe it would be totally irresponsible and economic madness to go down the path of introducing independent assessors to the NDIS. In fact, I believe that the concept of independent assessment as it is currently proposed is dangerous for the NDIS as a whole and to the individual with disability. The notion that one professional could assess all the supports and needs of a person living with disabilities for the upcoming year after one brief visit, demonstrates a gross misunderstanding by the Members of the Australian Parliament of the complexity of the issues around the NDIS and disability as a whole. I believe it also fundamentally conflicts with the basic tenets of the NDIS. If you don't understand why this is so, please take the time to meet with several people with disabilities to gain insight.
Would you pay and trust an independent assessor to assess all your financial needs for the years ahead, if they only have a few hours to talk with you, get to know your business and look at your books? The answer would probably be no, especially if you have complex financial and personal needs. You need a number experts to advise you who each have areas of specialty, not just one person has knowledge in one aspect of financial issues. Would you take your BMW convertible to a Ford dealer for mechanical inspection? Sure, they know about cars but would you trust them to do a total assessment? Of course NOT! You would see it as a total waste of money. Your specialist mechanic that you built up trust with knows your car's needs best. That's why you pay him/her.
In the past few months, I went to see two separate specialists. The first was a senior rehabilitation consultant who I saw regarding pain management. The second was an Occupational Therapist for an assessment of my accommodation needs for the coming years. They took the first 20 minutes to start to understand my situation and needs, let alone to assess all the issues related to my disability. Yet, the government is expecting an independent assessor to magically achieve this within three hours? This becomes just one more assessment on top of all the assessments that were required to be recognised as eligible for the NDIS in the first place. If you are thinking that independent assessments will replace the other assessments, please think again. For example, how could the government fund a physiotherapist to make recommendations that are in the domain of a speech pathologist, around swallowing and management of choking hazards? Wouldn’t that be considered professional misconduct?
Yes, we need to ensure that the Australian Taxes are being spent correctly and responsibly. NDIS is a huge government programme yet the government and Australians need to trust the professionals within the sector to make responsible assessments and recommendations. The process for being assessed as eligible for NDIS funding is arduous enough as it is. Plus, NDIS is built on premise that people with disabilities know best of what they need to participate fully in our Australian society. Funding outcomes must never be contingent upon the opinion of a single professional or doctor.
Dr Darryl Sellwoo, PhD.