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Thursday, December 7, 2023

How Aussies with autism could soon have a tougher time accessing the NDIS as the Albanese government considers shakeup to disability scheme

The federal government is exploring ways to tighten access to the NDIS for children with autism in a bid to cull soaring costs associated with the scheme.  

The Albanese government is in discussions with the states and territories on the need for changes to the eligibility criteria to join the program.

The NDIS is set to cost taxpayers $42 billion this financial year and $90 billion by 2031.

The news comes as a new report found the NDIS is responsible for the increasing  numbers of Australian children being diagnosed with autism. 

On average, NDIS participants with autism receive $33,800 a year, with very few participants ever leaving the scheme. 

The federal government is looking at changes in the eligibility of children with autism accessing the for the NDIS in a bid to address risisng costs (stock image pictured) 

All states and territories must be in agreeance with any alterations to the scheme, but it is understood the federal government has been examining changes it can legislate without the support of the states, the Daily Telegraph reported. 

In a meeting of disability ministers this month, changes to the law, including the need for ‘good legislation’ and improving services to disabled people outside the scheme was raised. 

National cabinet will next month consider a review into the NDIS by academic Bruce Bonyhady and former bureaucrat Lisa Paul, which was commissioned by NDIS Minister Bill Shorten.

It is possible the federal government could fund more intense services for children with developmental delays outside of the NDIS in a bid to cut costs as fewer of them will then need to join the scheme. 

Mr Shorten said the government would not be commenting further until the review was publicly released following the next national cabinet meeting.

‘Our intention is to make the NDIS become a more human, less bureaucratic experience, and we want to make sure shonky service providers are given short shrift,’ he said.

‘And the NDIS will continue to champion early ­intervention for kids with severe disabilities to give them the best possible start in life based on the best practice and ­evidence-based support.’

NDIS Minister Bill Shorten said he would not comment further until a review was publicly released following the next national cabinet meeting

NDIS Minister Bill Shorten said he would not comment further until a review was publicly released following the next national cabinet meeting 

Last week a report from academics at the ANU found a significant link between the NDIS and a rise in autism diagnoses in the country. 

It found autism diagnoses in Australian children had increased significantly over the last decade.

Australian kids were diagnosed faster than Canada, the US and the UK, with the report’s author concluding the NDIS was ‘the key factor’ in the difference.

The study’s lead author Maathu Ranjan, said the NDIS is ‘the key factor unique to the Australian context and potentially explains the additional growth in Australian prevalence’. 

Governments for some time have raised concerns about the way courts and tribunals have interpreted the definition of ‘reasonable and necessary services’ under the NDIS. 

There has also been several reports highlighting the way criminals are exploiting the scheme.

In August it was revealed that government investigators believe a series of properties worth millions were bought with funds allegedly stolen from the NDIS. 

Mr Shorten last year vowed to crack down on criminals ripping off the subsidy program through fake and vastly inflated invoices.

He said estimated $6billion is being pocketed out by crooks dipping into the multi-billion dollar program.

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