A few weeks ago, before COVID-19 sucked all the oxygen from the room, we covered the issue of the NDIS and how it was increasingly failing some of the very people it was designed to support - people living with complex, often painful, chronic conditions.
The article covered the overwhelming response from the chronic pain community, with hundreds of consumers sharing some of the insurmountable barriers they face in trying to access the NDIS. The magnitude and concerns outlined to us were so compelling that we made a supplementary submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. Painaustralia even raised our concerns directly with the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Hon Stuart Robert MP.
In the weeks since that article was published, so much has changed so dramatically for the chronic pain community. Besides juggling their daily routine and struggles of managing a chronic pain condition, people have reported being overwhelmed with the uncertainty of this unfolding pandemic.
This is why Painaustralia was particularly pleased this week to hear back from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), with a reply on behalf of Minister Robert. In particular, the NDIA clarifies that:
“A person with chronic pain may be considered to have a permanent impairment, for NDIS access purposes, if they provide evidence to demonstrate that all available treatment options, medical or otherwise, have been exhausted and that none have, or would remedy the impairment. In this regard, it is important to note that an impairment that is episodic or varies in the severity of its impact on a person’s functional capacity, can still be considered permanent.
The NDIA does not ask people applying for the NDIS to pay for specialist assessments. Typically, people are encouraged to provide copies of existing letters, reports or assessments, or to provide the NDIA with consent to contact their treating health professional, for supporting evidence. However, in the near future the NDIA will provide people applying for the NDIS with access to free functional capacity assessments conducted by an independent assessor where a permanent impairment has been established.”
We are also encouraged by the NDIA’s comments that they are in the process of actively following up on individual case information that we shared, where further evidence may support individuals to become NDIS participants.
I would like to thank each and every one of the over one hundred of consumers who shared their experiences with us and trusted us to advocate on their behalf. The NDIA’s response indicates that there is great value in our collective advocacy, and I would like to encourage you all to continue to share your experiences and concerns with us. While we may not be able to resolve systemic issues immediately, it is encouraging to know that some individuals will be able to directly work through their issues with NDIA and that they are now aware of the range of concerns and some real world examples of the barriers to access many face.
Right now, we are all facing unprecedented challenges with COVID-19, and I know the chronic pain community is uniquely vulnerable through this crisis. So once again, I would like to ask you to trust us with your experiences, share with us the challenges that you face at the moment, and we will do our very best to address them and help you navigate through these challenging times.