NDIA accused of 'selectively' quoting academic to help justify controversial reforms

NDIS chief executive Martin Hoffman Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
NDIS chief executive Martin Hoffman Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

An academic demanded the National Disability Insurance Agency immediately stop selectively quoting her as part of attempts to justify its controversial independent assessments plan.

University of Sydney honorary senior research fellow Rosamond Madden wrote to NDIA boss Martin Hoffman to express her surprise and distress after the agency made it appear as though she endorsed the changes.

In a statement, the agency said that as soon as Mr Hoffman become aware of Dr Madden's concern he took steps to correct the record, and has since apologised.

In its joint submission to the parliamentary inquiry examining the proposal, the NDIA and Department of Social Services said the broad approach and the participant assessment tools it planned to use had been endorsed by leading academics - including Dr Madden.

The submission quoted Dr Madden and her colleague Nick Glozier as saying that the agency had proposed a "framework on which to build a fairer and more consistent disability assessment - to enable the rights of people with disability to participate across society".

"This diagnosis-neutral framework combines both the need to evaluate capacity and the determining role of the environment in helping or hindering participation," the submission said.

But in her letter to Mr Hoffman, which has been published by the parliamentary committee, Dr Madden said her views had been misrepresented and "misused".

She said her "note of support" was offered immediately after she advised the agency on a paper regarding the framework for functional assessments, which was published in August.

Dr Madden said she it was "not possible to infer that I support anything the NDIA has done since then", adding that she had never expressed an opinion about the tests to be used to assess participants for funding.

"I am writing to request that the NDIA immediately stop quoting me as being in support of your current approach to independent assessment," she said in the letter.

"I am concerned about the ongoing selective quoting and misuse of a note of support I provided last year immediately after advising on the [August] paper."

"It cannot be inferred, because I thought there was merit in the framework paper, that I supported the tools paper or anything else that has been done in or since September.

"It is not correct to say that I endorse the tools selected as well as the framework, as is done [in the submission]."

Dr Madden said a "selective quote" used in an agency newsletter in April was another example of "misuse".

She pointed out the agency's submission had omitted a sentence from her comments, which resulted in a "misrepresentation of our views".

The omitted sentence stated that the framework recognised that assessments must combine information gathered from scientific tests with the "expert knowledge of people living with disability and the families and professionals who know them".

"We supplied this specific support in good faith. It is surprising and distressing that our trust has resulted in our views being misrepresented," she said in the letter.

An NDIA spokesman said that Mr Hoffman immediately wrote to the secretary of the parliamentary committee to correct the record after Dr Madden raised her concerns.

He said Mr Hoffman also wrote to Dr Madden to apologise for the incorrect use of her quote and for "any concern caused".

"The agency appreciates Dr Madden's ongoing contribution to the scheme, including her review of the assessment framework proposed for independent assessments," he said.

The Canberra Times understands the agency tried to submit a revised submission to the committee, but that was not permitted.

Dr Madden did not respond to requests for comment.

The proposed use of the same set of assessment tools for participants regardless of their disability has been criticised as illogical by former NDIS chairman Bruce Bonyhady.

New NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds this week confirmed the Morrison government would go ahead with independent assessments "in some form", despite opposition from disability groups, medical professionals, academics, Labor and the Greens.

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This story NDIA accused of 'selectively' quoting academic to justify reforms first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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