NDIS uptake by people with psychosocial disability lower than expected

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Posted 3 weeks ago by Liz Alderslade

Only 25,192 people with psychosocial disability have accessed the NDIS (9 percent of all people on the NDIS), with the original estimated uptake set at 64,000 by full roll out. [Source: Shutterstock]
Only 25,192 people with psychosocial disability have accessed the NDIS (9 percent of all people on the NDIS), with the original estimated uptake set at 64,000 by full roll out. [Source: Shutterstock]

A report from the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) has highlighted that the Government isn’t doing enough to support people with psychosocial disabilities onto the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), which is falling short of its projected uptake by 38,000 people.

Only 25,192 people with psychosocial disability have accessed the NDIS (9 percent of all people on the NDIS), with the original estimated uptake set at 64,000 once the full scheme was rolled out.

A psychosocial disability is a disability arising from mental health issues and the impacts it has on an individual’s life, including challenges with setting goals, making plans, receiving education, training and employment, and social or cultural interactions.

While progress has been made to address the barriers that recipients face to receive NDIS support, the NMHC believes more can be done by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to rectify this.

Chief Executive Officer of the National Mental Health Commission, Christine Morgan, says, “Progress has been made by the NDIA to ensure that people with psychosocial disability are supported through all phases of the scheme, from access request to application, planning and plan review. 

“Although these initiatives are welcomed by the NMHC, more can and must be done to address the needs of people with psychosocial disability, particularly in providing access to the scheme.”

The NMHC was not able to conclude why the uptake has been so slow, but reports from people with psychosocial disability suggest it may be due to the “episodic nature” of mental illness and how the recovery approach aligns with the NDIS assessment process.

Mental health peak body, Mental Health Australia, describes the biggest challenge for a person with psychosocial disability accessing the NDIS is to be eligible, which requires a person to have a permanent impairment or an impairment likely to be permanent.

However, permanent impairment requirements can be difficult to meet when mental illness can change in severity and in nature over a persons lifetime, sometimes very quickly and without warning.

While new initiatives have been introduced, such as NDIA staff and health professionals receiving mental health training and streamlining access for clients in programs transitioning to the NDIS, the NMHC has provided suggestions that could improve the current system.

Ms Morgan, says, “The NDIS is an appropriate service for people with psychosocial disability. We know that the scheme is working for some people with psychosocial disability. We also know it is not working for everyone and the 2019 National Report identifies recommendations to help address these issues,” says the NMHC.

“NDIS is a significant social reform and it will take time to implement. The Australian Government has responded to concerns and is working closely with stakeholders to address the issues being identified with the NDIS. 

“The NDIA has implemented a number of initiatives to improve access to the NDIS by people with a psychosocial disability.”

One NMHC recommendation involves targeted supports for people with psychosocial disability to access and navigate the NDIS.

Other recommendations from the NMHC include: 

  • Extending the support for Commonwealth community mental health program clients to at least 2021

  • People who are ineligible for the NDIS still have access to adequate psychosocial support services

  • The NDIA work with all State and Territory governments to progress the Maintain Critical Support policy

  • NDIA include support coordination as standard for all plans for people with psychosocial disability 

  • Regularly published data about participants with psychosocial disability in the NDIS

To read the report, head to the National Mental Health Commission website.

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