Mind the Gap report highlights NDIS inconsistencies

Stakeholder exercise: A report identifies gaps in the NDIS for people living with mental illness and proposes solutions.
Stakeholder exercise: A report identifies gaps in the NDIS for people living with mental illness and proposes solutions.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is failing most people with severe mental illness.

That is Endeavour Mental Health Recovery Clubhouse’s experience.

The clubhouse’s Advisory Committee chair Bob Boss-Walker said mental health consumers were applying for the NDIS but being rejected because they didn’t meet the criteria.

“The problem that creates for mental health consumers is they are expecting to get a plan, and so they are held in limbo sometimes for six months, and then it comes back and they don’t get anything or they get such a minimal amount,” he said.

“I’ve spoken to parents and carers of mental health consumers who are just so shattered by finding out that the NDIS is not turning out to be what it was promoted as being.

“They have their expectations raised that their son or daughter would have a secure future in terms of mental health funding support and now a dark cloud has come over that.”

A Mind the Gap report identifies NDIS gaps for people living with mental illness and proposes solutions.

The report said NDIS participation of people with a primary psychosocial disability was low and indicated multiple difficulties in the scheme’s implementation.

National Disability Insurance Agency, whose role it is to implement the scheme, takes issue with many statements in the report.

Report author Associate Professor Jennifer Smith-Merry said while the NDIS was an exciting reform for people with disability, its current structure did not fit easily with the lived experience of people with psychosocial disability.

The report, compiled by the University of Sydney and Community Mental Health Australia, was based on the experiences of 58 expert stakeholders. 

Speaking out: Endeavour Mental Health Recovery Clubhouse director Rob Moorehead and the clubhouse’s Advisory Committee chair Bob Boss-Walker raise concerns about the NDIS.

Speaking out: Endeavour Mental Health Recovery Clubhouse director Rob Moorehead and the clubhouse’s Advisory Committee chair Bob Boss-Walker raise concerns about the NDIS.

The report notes the government’s own figures of 690,000 Australians are living with severe mental illness.

“What is significantly worrying is that at full roll out the scheme is only designed to meet the needs of 64,000 people with severe mental illness, yet existing services are being closed and funding moved into the NDIS,” Professor Smith-Merry said.

Endeavour Mental Health Recovery Clubhouse director Rob Moorehead spoke about the implications of the NDIS criteria.

He said people with episodic psychosocial mental illness could be well for so long and be so unwell for so long.

“Mental illness and the recovery journey can be like a game of snakes and ladders,” Mr Moorehead said.

A NDIA spokesperson said a person with a psychosocial disability, to access the NDIS, needs to have a permanent or likely-to-be permanent disability as a result of their mental health condition. 

The condition must have a significant impact on their day-to-day life and the person’s ability to participate in the community. 

 A NDIA spokesperson said as reported in the most recent NDIS quarterly report – as at December 31, 2017 – psychosocial disability was the third largest disability group represented in the scheme.

The spokesperson said the NDIS did not, and was never intended to, replace other government support systems like the mental health system or community-based support or treatment for people living with mental health conditions. 

Access to the NDIS is based on functional impairment, not diagnosis.

Mr Boss-Walker said from their experience at Endeavour, the way the NDIS plans were being assessed was inconsistent and reflected a workforce that did not understand the complexities of mental illness.

“The potential implication is very few people with mental illness will be funded under the NDIS and therefore they will not have the ability to purchase the services they want from community agencies, like Endeavour, under the NDIS,” he said.

Mind the Gap report said stakeholders spoke about the high numbers of people being assessed as ineligible and the seemingly ad hoc, inconsistent and ill-informed nature of the NDIA assessment.

The NDIA spokesperson said a National Access Team assessed access requests in accordance with the agreed transition schedules and the eligibility requirements.

The spokesperson said in October 2017, the NDIS released the details of its new pathway, designed to significantly improve the experience people and organisations have with the NDIS.

Go to the University of Sydney website to read the Mind the Gap report.

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