Opinion | 26 February 2021

“My NDIS ‘Independent Assessment’ was a nightmare”

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Still frame from one of Aarons NDIS assessment videos on Facebook. There is a play button over his face. He is resting his mouth on his hand. He's wearing headphones.

“As an autistic person this petrifies me. The NDIS assessors don’t want to hear outside the boxes of ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I can only imagine how bad this will be for people who can’t articulate their needs well. We need to fight and make ourselves heard.”

Aaron Carpenter volunteered to take part in the pilot of the new “independent assessments” being introduced to the NDIS later this year. His experience was a “nightmare”. He wants everyone to know what went wrong – and why we can’t let this go ahead.

The NDIA is running a pilot program for the ‘independent’ assessments they plan to make compulsory later this year.

These assessments are being touted as a way to create fairness and equity in accessing the NDIS, and in the creation of plans and funding.

I volunteered to be a part of this trial as I am a participant of the NDIS, a family member, and Support Coordinator. I wanted to know what we could all expect.

It has been a nightmare

I was contacted by the assessors – APM – who kept calling me daily. Even though I have asked on my NDIS file that email is my preferred communication method. After each call I was sent a text message I could not respond to – asking me to call APM.

Upon calling APM, I was put on hold immediately. Eventually when a person answered the phone they had no idea who I was trying to get to, or indeed who I was at all. After some wrangling, I was put through to a woman who was “handling NDIS”.

I asked her why I was receiving calls when it was not my preferred communication method – only to be asked if my support person was available to speak to! I told her no – if the assessment was about me, she had to speak to me, but that I would like that to be done via email.

I asked what tools were going to be used during the assessment. I was sent a link to the NDIS website. (Not all people with disability have access to, nor can use the net). I asked if I would get a copy of the report when done, and was told no. When I emailed back and said that was not going to work for me, I received an email saying the last email was wrong, and I could have a copy.

The appointment was scheduled for Saturday 6th February, 11am at my home. The assessor from APM arrived at 10.45am. Though not ready to have a stranger in our home, we invited him in. He sat at our dining table – and proceeded to plug his laptop into our power…without asking.

He started typing on his laptop, not talking to us. When my partner asked if the assessment had started, he stated I should do a ‘task’ whilst he was setting up. We asked “What task?”, and I was instructed to make a cup of tea.

I chose instead to finish stacking the dishwasher, as this was the job he’d interrupted by coming early. I asked him his name and qualifications. He told me we were not at that part of the assessment. My partner said, “Sorry, you’ve just come into our home, sat down and started typing with no introduction or explanation?”

He then told us his name was Ben, and that he was a physiotherapist. I asked what a physiotherapist knew about Autism assessments. He replied that he was also a support worker who “helps people clean themselves and stuff.”

We then started the assessment

We were asked basic yes or no questions. When my partner tried to elaborate at one point, he told her to “stop answering the question as you’re rambling.”

My partner at the time was trying to explain how our household has five people with Autism and ADHD living in it, and how that impacts on each other. We were told this was not relevant to the assessment about me.

The questions were asked with NO context. No elaboration was allowed unless he directly asked.

Then we were often cut short – or told we were interpreting the questions wrong.

We both have autism – of which communication deficits are a major component.

I was so frustrated I made a video to help other people find out exactly what the assessments are like.

These assessments are just like a Centrelink tick-and-flick form. You’ll get funded according to how many points you get. How many points you get depends on how accurate your assessment was.

That’s just not going to work for lots of people.

It just keeps getting better

On top of all this – soon after the assessment I was told by APM that I could not have the assessment report without applying for it from the NDIS.

And then I got an email from APM saying (contrary to the sales pitch) that my assessment – even in the pilot phase – would be used to develop a new plan for me. I would apparently get it from a planner within 6-8 weeks.

And again…after more back and forth, APM came back to me to say that my assessment will NOT trigger a new plan.

All of which was very worrying.

The assessment report

The assessment conducted was not thorough, not in context, and not done by a suitable professional!

No consultation was had with my existing support team – OT, psychologist etc.

And when did finally get the report I was shattered.

Relevant parts of the report were omitted. The section on self-harm, for example, was marked down as ‘not applicable’. Unfortunately, self-harm is a reality for me as an autistic person. I’m not proud of it. But that is the reality of my disability.

It is absolutely unacceptable for the report that is supposed to reflect my needs to have completely missed one of the most fundamental sections.

The report does not reflect my life or what my needs are.

There is no context.

Lots of yes/no questions. And areas for comments, which are blank.

There are questions that should be ‘yes’ but are ‘no’.

There are questions that should have some kind of answer but are marked down as ‘not applicable’.


The assessment that came back does not reflect me.

When this rolls out you won’t necessarily get your results. They’ll go off to the NDIA and into the computer to tabulate your results. It will formulate some sort of funding for you.

This is not about individual needs. It is not about creating individual packages.

But even using this type of process they are not doing the assessments correctly.

These assessments are not about creating equity

I work with a lot of different people. Some people don’t have enough funding – others have a lot. I desperately want there to be equity in this system. I want people that are socially or economically disadvantaged to be able to access the NDIS with more ease and less cost.

But these independent assessments are not going to do that.

We need to fight this

This is NOT the NDIS that we want.

These assessments are a slap in the face.

So I want to finish by saying please…use your voices!

Say NO to the assessments.

Say NO to these trials.

Say NO to the indignity of people ticking boxes.

We need to fight this… all the way!

Please provide comment on these IA’s and the proposed reforms to the NDIS.

These reforms are not about equity… they are about cutting funds or even removing supports entirely!

Use your voices guys… because EVERY AUSTRALIAN COUNTS!

 


Read, watch or do more

Check out Aaron’s new Facebook page My Autistic Soapbox for more of his story.

Make yourself heard – find out how to tell the NDIS Minister and our MPs and Senators what you think about these compulsory assessments.

Read more of our explainers and opinion articles about the NDIS compulsory assessments. Find out:

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