NDIS struggling to accommodate people with psychosocial disability
7 October 2019 at 3:48 pm
People with severe mental health issues are having their National Disability Insurance Scheme funding cut because the system does not account for the episodic nature of psychosocial disability, a new report says.
Disability providers believe people are having their NDIS funding reduced because they are “underutilising” their plans and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) assumes this indicates a lack of need.
But providers say the underutlisation of NDIS funding is more commonly due to the episodic nature of mental illness, because people have been too unwell, or were unable to find anyone to offer services within their plan.
The report – from Community Mental Health Australia (CMHA) and the University of Sydney – said this demonstrated the NDIA’s lack of understanding of psychosocial disability.
One provider told researchers: “Consumers should not be punished (by reducing plan funding) at the plan review stage for underutilisation of their plan.
“Underutilisation may occur due to it being a time of low need time for the consumer, but this does not mean they won’t need the higher level of supports in the future.”
The report also expressed concerns about the slow transition of people with psychosocial disability into the NDIS from three recently ended Commonwealth-funded programs – Partners in Recovery (PIR), Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMs), and Support for Day to Day Living (D2DL).
Researchers found only 50 per cent of those transitioning had submitted an application to the NDIS, while 27 per cent of people who had applied were assessed as ineligible.
Those found to be ineligible can be placed into the Continuity of Support (COS) program, but the report said it was doubtful this could offer the same level of support as previous programs.
CMHA CEO Bill Gye said a two-tier system had been created and that the issue needed urgent attention.
“With wisdom of hindsight it would have been better to retain those previous programs until the main issues with transition to the NDIS were resolved and the remaining transitioned to COS,” Gye said.
It is expected by full scheme that 64,000 participants (14 per cent of NDIS participants) will be people with a psychosocial disability.
But a report earlier this year found only a quarter of people in Commonwealth-funded mental health programs have successfully transitioned to the NDIS.
Report author Dr Nicola Hancock said many people who had not yet applied were those most in need of high-level support.
“For many, it is the severity of their mental illness that is precluding them from engaging in the complex and stressful process required to apply,” Hancock said.
“Service providers repeatedly expressed concern that with reduced supports, this group of Australians will end up depending upon ultimately more expensive acute and clinical mental health services and be at greater risk of ending up in the criminal justice system.”