Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard introduced the National Disability Insurance Scheme in 2012. Picture: Supplied
Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard introduced the National Disability Insurance Scheme in 2012. Picture: Supplied

NDIS plan to change autism rules

A NEW plan to tweak the definition of autism could see thousands of Australians with significant support needs unable to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The plan, being worked on by the National Disability Insurance Agency with researchers, will reverse the idea of an autism "spectrum" and place people into specific "subtypes" based on individual characteristics instead, The Australian reports.

The redesign will reportedly come into effect shortly before state and federal support programs for ­autism end next year, potentially leaving thousands with little or no support.

The NDIS was a signature policy of the Gillard government. Picture: David Clark
The NDIS was a signature policy of the Gillard government. Picture: David Clark

The Australian first reported at the weekend the NDIA was working on a secret plan to restrict the access of autistic people to the NDIS by preventing them from qualifying "automatically" for taxpayer funded support.

It's part of a wider plan to rein in costs of the $22 billion NDIS.

Now, it has been revealed moves to tweak the definition of autism are being worked on by researchers from the Co-operative Research Centre for Living with Autism along with the NDIA.

The news comes after Australians were shocked by a horrific case where several teens have been charged after a defenceless 14-year-old Quinn Lahiff-Jenkinsa was allegedly assaulted by a group of teenagers outside a school in Melbourne's northern suburbs.

The researchers are working to develop a "profile" of different types of autism based on "individual characteristics", which would identify new "subtypes" of autism rather than acknowledging a "spectrum".

It could potentially allow the NDIA to link specific support packages to the new subtypes.

The research adds weight to revelations at the weekend the NDIA is working on a plan to restrict the access of autistic people to the NDIS.

National Disability Insurance Agency CEO Rob De Luca (right). Picture: Peter Ristevski
National Disability Insurance Agency CEO Rob De Luca (right). Picture: Peter Ristevski


An NDIA staff member reportedly published part of the plan last week by updating a list of pre-qualifying conditions for the scheme and the update was then taken down the next day.

But The Australian reports the change removed Level Two of three levels of autism, the second most severe, from the list of conditions that automatically qualified for entry to the NDIS.

The NDIA has expressed concern about some people with autism being placed on the NDIS where "eligibility criteria have not otherwise been met".

"While this work has been underway for some time, it ­remains at a discussion stage and no decision has been made as to whether the Lists should be changed," a statement on the NDIS website yesterday said.

The reported changes come as the number of NDIS participants with autism rises.

About 142,000 Australians are currently in the NDIS. The percentage with autism has risen from 28 to 29 per cent in the past year.

ABS statistics reveal the number of Australians with Autism rose by 42.1 per cent to 164,000 between 2012 and 2015 alone.



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