We need the NDIS and our mental health systems working together
The National Disability Insurance Scheme is one of the great reforms of our times. Including mental health in the NDIS is not a mistake. Too often people affected by poor mental health are left out, left behind and excluded.
Far from rebuking the scheme, Beyondblue champions this visionary initiative for enabling hundreds of thousands of people with disabling physical and/or mental conditions to choose and pay for the services and supports that best suit them.
But we need to be clear about what the NDIS is designed to do — and what it is not.
The NDIS was never intended to replace the mental health system. Nor was it intended to replace community-based support or medical care for people living with mental health conditions.
Including mental health in the NDIS is not a mistake but it is a decision that will require time, flexibility, transparency and co-operation across governments to get right.
The NDIS is still being rolled out so the time is right to continue to raise concerns, debate the detail and identify potential cracks in the system before they are cemented.
Which is why Beyondblue, in its submission to the joint standing committee on the NDIS — like many others in the mental health sector — has highlighted unintended consequences that could affect hundreds of thousands who are presently accessing government-funded services.
Each year about 690,000 Australians will experience a serious mental health issue. For some that will be permanent; for others it will be episodic.
The original NDIS projections are that only 64,000 of these people experience a severe and ongoing “psychosocial disability” caused by their mental illness for which they will receive individualised care packages under the NDIS eligibility criteria.
Having a psychosocial disability means mental health issues affect a person’s day-to-day life. It stops them managing the everyday things that many of us take for granted: making friends and socialising, shopping and cooking, keeping appointments, securing safe housing and sustaining healthy relationships.
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