People with severe mental illness face difficulties accessing NDIS

Posted 4 years ago by Rebecca St Clair
“People will continue to receive inappropriate supports in their NDIS package if they are assessed as eligible,” says Ms Hancock. [Source: Shutterstock]
“People will continue to receive inappropriate supports in their NDIS package if they are assessed as eligible,” says Ms Hancock. [Source: Shutterstock]

Those with severe mental illness are facing additional problems accessing the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), say researchers from the University of Sydney’s Centre for Disability Research and Policy (CDRP). 

The independent Tune Review, undertaken by former public servant, David John Tune AO PSM, into the NDIS was released earlier this month, revealing access to NDIS support was a complicated and frustrating process for many individuals. 

Researchers from the CDRP have suggested that people with a psychosocial disability have additional challenges with accessing support from the NDIS. 

Associate Professor Nicola Hancock from the CDRP says, “GPs, psychiatrists, clinicians and people living with psychosocial disability have a poor understanding of [the] NDIS and what evidence is needed and conversely, NDIA (National Disability Insurance Agency) staff have a poor understanding of psychosocial disability.” 

Ms Hancock adds that the poor understanding of psychosocial disabilities by NDIA staff leads to people not applying, applications getting rejected, and NDIS plans being inappropriate for a person’s needs.

Along with this lack of understanding about psychosocial disabilities, there are issues with obtaining appropriate evidence to access the NDIS.

For those that do meet the eligibility for the NDIS, they can face further barriers or difficulties with accessing the NDIS. These additional barriers were highlighted in the Tune Review. 

Mental health illness that affects your ability to perform daily activities is known as psychosocial disability and may make someone eligible for the NDIS. 

An estimated 600,000 Australians live with severe and persistent mental illness. Approximately 64,000 of those will be eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Ms Hancock says that even when there is evidence, treating doctors and clinicians are often inexperienced using the language of disability, preferring to use hopeful language rather than talking about permanence, and specialist reports are usually not accepted as evidence.

She also adds that lack of advocacy is also an issue, saying, “[There is] a lack of advocacy or support for people to assist them to clearly articulate what their needs are. People have not been permitted or encouraged to have family or service providers who know them well to attend meetings with NDIA.”

To ensure NDIS funding is accessible to all types of disability, Ms Hancock believes changes need to be made to make it accessible. 

Ms Hancook says, “The NDIS was initially designed with physical and intellectual disabilities in mind. It continues to need modification to suit people with psychosocial disability and NDIA are well aware of this. 

“With ongoing genuine engagement and redesign with mental health experts, including people living with mental illness themselves and their families, NDIS will become more fit for purpose for this community.”

Without changes to resolve the challenges people living with a psychosocial disability face when accessing the NDIS, Ms Hancock says they may continue to be excluded.

“[People] will continue to receive inappropriate supports in their NDIS package if they are assessed as eligible,” says Ms Hancock.

She adds that the Tune Review has been a step in the right direction to ensure the right changes get made to support those with a psychosocial disability.

Ms Hancock says, “While not solely focused on psychosocial disability, this report shines a light on the many challenges specific to psychosocial disability and recommends well-informed solutions. 

“It is a welcomed step in the process of making NDIS fit-for-purpose for people living with a psychosocial disability.” 

To read our guide to mental health and the NDIS, click here

What more do you think can be done to make the NDIS more accessible to psychosocial disability? Tell us in the comments below.