The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) promises a life-changing opportunity for Australians living with disabilities to get the supports they need to engage and participate fully in their communities.
The size, complexity and rapid roll-out of the NDIS meant that teething problems would inevitably arise.
People with a mental illness were the last group to be included in the NDIS. Initial planning focused on physical and intellectual disability, failing to recognise the unique needs and challenges of people with psychosocial disabilities.
While some refinements have occurred in the years since the roll out, more changes are needed to make it easier for eligible Australians with a severe mental illness to get into the NDIS, and then get the supports they need.
Is It Hard to Get into NDIS?
To gain access to the NDIS, people need to gather and submit evidence to prove that their mental illness results in a disability.
Sometimes a mental illness does not have a long-term effect on the person’s ability to study, work or look after them. These people don’t have a psychosocial disability and they don’t need the NDIS.
However mental illnesses – including schizophrenia, depression, and a range of other types of illness – do often have a long-term effect on a person’s ability to do these everyday activities. This is when their mental illness results in a psychosocial disability and the NDIS is needed.
To gain access to the NDIS, they also need to prove that this disability is permanent. Many people with a severe mental illness don’t recognise they have an illness or disability and don’t access supports and treatments. They may be unaware that they’re potentially eligible, or too unwell or fearful to engage with the NDIS, unless someone reaches out and builds their trust over time.
People with psychosocial disabilities often live transient lives, disconnected from or only sporadically involved with mental health services. This means they won’t have the evidence they need to prove permanency.
Another barrier is that psychosocial disabilities, unlike other types of disability, typically fluctuate. Many people – whether they have schizophrenia, depression or another mental illness – have times where they’re unable to do even the most basic tasks needed to look after themselves and just getting out of bed is a struggle, while at other times their illness has less impact.
Finally, a mismatch between the NDIS language of disability, and the strengths-focused language that mental health services use, can create additional barriers to accessing the system.
While NDIS requires the person to be “permanently impaired”, clinicians strive to focus on hope and the potential of living a meaningful life. So, they avoid using hopeless language such as “permanent”. If clinicians don’t use disability-related language in evidence they provide, the person is likely to be assessed as ineligible.
Regards: ZedCare Ability Services