NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds says rules to be redrafted amid backlash over participant plans power grab

Linda Reynolds has confirmed the rules surrounding the new CEO power would be redrafted. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Linda Reynolds has confirmed the rules surrounding the new CEO power would be redrafted. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

A controversial proposal to hand the NDIS chief executive new powers to change a participant's plan without their permission will be tweaked following a major backlash.

NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds has confirmed to The Canberra Times that the rules surrounding the new power would be redrafted to clarify the "limited circumstances" under which it could be used.

However, the provision handing the federal NDIS minister the ability to make crucial changes without the agreement of states and territories is set to remain, despite significant opposition.

The move came as the nation's top disability rights advocate became the latest prominent voice to sound the alarm about the bill, warning that extra safeguards were needed to ensure the new plan variation power wasn't misused.

The new power is proposed as part of a package of reforms designed to improve the scheme for participants.

The government wants to make it easier to adjust a participant's plan - a process which currently requires their entire bundle of supports to be reviewed.

It has argued the powers would only be used in limited circumstances, such as when a person needed crisis accommodation to flee domestic violence.

Advocates including inaugural NDIS chairman Bruce Bonyhady have used an ongoing parliamentary inquiry into the bill to warn that the new power could be used to cut funding to participants.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Ben Gauntlett's submission to the inquiry raised concerns about the "wide discretion" for the agency boss to vary a plan with little involvement of the participant.

In an interview with The Canberra Times, Dr Gauntlett said the bill as proposed did not contain "sufficient safeguards" for participants, particularly as some were among the most vulnerable members of society.

He said the government needed to explain what was meant by a "minor or technical" amendment, which is among the list of scenarios where a plan can be changed.

"The agency's view of what is a minor or technical amendment could be quite different to an individual with a disability's view of what is a minor or technical amendment," he said.

"Because of the preponderance of people who are NDIS participants who are not employed or don't have access to gainful employment, a minor change has to be considered in that context."

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Dr Gauntlett, whose role is part of the Australian Human Rights Commission, said proper oversight of the new CEO power would help instil trust in the scheme, and provide more certainty to participants about the future of their funding.

Senator Reynolds told The Canberra Times that in response to feedback, the government was redrafting the rules to "outline the limited circumstances in which the power can be exercised".

The tweaked rules would be published "shortly", she said.

The powers have already been refined after the initial round of consultation.

Senator Reynolds has signalled the government won't back down on plans to hand the federal NDIS minister the power to change the rules without approval from the states and territories.

The proposed change was recommended in the Tune review, but has faced significant pushback from states and territories, including the ACT.

ACT Minister for Disability Emma Davidson has warned the changes could transfer "total control" of the scheme to the federal minister and "unfettered powers" to the agency's boss.

Senator Reynolds described the power as an "administrative process", which didn't meet the threshold for NDIS rules for which state and territory approval is required.

The federal minister would need to consult with the states, and the changes could still be struck out in the Senate.

"I am pleased with the level of support for the intent of the bill, including strong endorsement for the participant service guarantee, and welcome the constructive suggestions for improvements to the bill and rules," Senator Reynolds said.

This story NDIS rules to be redrafted amid backlash over CEO power grab first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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