Some Wagga residents may soon find it more difficult to access National Disability Insurance Scheme funding, according to a local expert.
From next year, all NDIS applicants and existing participants will undergo independent assessments to be approved for funding rather than compiling their own information from their usual healthcare services.
Sunflower House president Mark Horton believes this could leave some people without much-needed support.
"I'm in a wheelchair, but I can advocate for myself. I can push back if I need to. I can ask questions if I need to. But people with mental illness or cognitive disabilities can't always do that," Mr Horton said.
"The approach of having a 15 minute assessment with an occupational therapist or whatever is not going to be appropriate for a lot of people, especially those with psycho-social disabilities."
The independent assessors are part of the federal government's recent overhaul of the NDIS in response to a 2019 independent review of the scheme, which made substantive recommendations intended to make it simpler and more equitable.
Wagga's Sunflower House caters for 62 people living with mental illness and will shift in 2021 to being self-funded by its members' NDIS packages.
"I think the [NDIS] funding is good. At the end of the day it's about how [the government] administers it," Mr Horton said.
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Natalie Forsyth-Stock, the chief executive officer of local disability care provider LiveBetter, believes most of the NDIS reforms will benefit participants.
"I think from the perspective of the participants overall it's great to see some simplification and some acknowledgement that the system has been problematic in the past," Ms Forsyth-Stock said.
"Anything that tries to simplify the system and make it easier for people to access the NDIS is a really good thing.
"From our perspective as a provider, what we look for is that we want to make sure that from a participant perspective things are as effective as they can be, because it impacts on the way we deliver services as well."
However Ms Forsyth-Stock said she was concerned there would not be enough specialists with knowledge of psycho-social disabilities to carry out the planned independent assessments, particularly in regional NSW.
"For those people with an intellectual disability ... it's much harder to often get a diagnosis in those circumstances," she said.
"A formulaic, 'one size all' functional assessment is likely to be more problematic for those people. So that worries me that they're trying to pigeonhole people."
NDIS Minister Stuart Robert has said the appointment of independent assessors, who will be paid for with funds from the scheme, will make the application process more consistent for participants.
As of March 31, NDIS figures show there were 5265 Murrumbidgee participants with average annual budgets of $65,000.
The average budget for North Sydney's 8,502 NDIS participants was $80,000.