Planning & Funding Mental Health within in the NDIS

11
Sep 15
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July 1st 2016 is looming fast for service users and providers in the mental health NGO sector. That is when the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is due to ‘roll out’ across most of Australia, for all types of disability including psychosocial.

Actually most of us, whether people with severe mental illness, carers or service providers, welcomed the announcement in 2012 that disability related to mental illness would be part of the NDIS. We all know that the promises made twenty or more years ago—that a full range of community supports would replace the mental hospitals being closed closed—have not been delivered in full, particularly to people with severe and persistent mental illness and complex disabilities.  

Packages of care

There was not much argument that 56,000 people seemed a reasonable estimate of how many needed the NDIS comprehensive ‘packages of care’. There has been anxiety about the ‘insurance model’ for these 56,000, and what it actually meant, and several other major issues. To be fair, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) have put in a lot of effort to resolve most of these.

So yes, there are still big concerns about exactly how the scheme will work for users and providers. But by far the biggest concern is how this will affect people who are not going to get a package of care—the people outside ‘the 56,000’. 

Back tracking on what has been achieved  

Estimates of how many people have severe mental illness and episodic or persistent disabilities have been put forward by the National Mental Health Commission, the National Mental Health Services Planning Framework, and by the Productivity Commission when it advised the Government, before the scheme was legislated. The Productivity Commission gave the lowest figure, which was 480,000 people, of whom 56,000 were to be covered by the NDIS.

But, and this is a very big but, in 2013 the Commonwealth Government, followed by several States and Territories, then promised to part-fund the NDIS with money that underpins assistance to people who will mostly not qualify for a package. Services that several hundred thousand Australians affected by severe mental illness, and their family carers, have been able to depend on for the last ten years or more. Services that were introduced by the Howard Government and then expanded by the Gillard Government, always with bi-partisan support.

No-one who welcomed this initiative thought it would be achieved by back-tracking on so much that has been achieved. We have been pointing out this major policy error for more than two years, since we first heard that a number of programs were going to be ‘rolled in’ to the NDIS. Ten months to go, and we still don’t seem any closer to a resolution. As things stand, there will be many, many ‘wrong doors’ for people in desperate need of help after July 1st 2016.

David Meldrum will be speaking on ‘Better help where & when you need it – the only reform that’s needed’ at the Implementing Mental Health Reform Conference. Book your place by March 11th to save $300.

Mental Health Reform

Submitted by David Meldrum

David Meldrum

David is the Executive Director of the Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia, a federation of long-standing member organisations delivering specialist services for individuals and families. MIFA members now operate out of nearly 180 locations in all states and territories.

David has worked in a variety of executive positions across much of the human services sector, both in government, in NGOs and as a private consultant. Along with time spent working with young offenders, child protection, public housing and aged care, he has been found himself repeatedly drawn back to Australia’s unfinished business of guaranteeing decent services and a better quality of life for people with mental illness.

2 thoughts on “Planning & Funding Mental Health within in the NDIS

  1. As the winding up of government funding for existing mental illness support services progresses, the panic is already setting in among the 80+% of current service users, who will no longer receive any such supports. Currently, there are programs which support both them and their family carers, which helps prevent exacerbation of symptoms for those with an illness, and helps prevent collapse by their carers. Despite the improved support for the most disabled of those with mental health problems, problems in this sector are likely to deteriorate, not improve, as so many will not now receive support to help avoid the deterioration probable from having to cope in isolation.
    I am so glad David will be brining to attention the plight of those with mental health problems who will no longer receive support services.

  2. What about the 88%?
    There is no argument that the NDIS is a wonderful opportunity for the people who will qualify for NDIS support. However, documents on the NDIS website identify that only 12% of people with severe and persistent mental illness will receive an individual funding package.

    “The estimated percentage of the Australian adult population in need of NDIS individually funded supports as a result of psychosocial disability related to mental illness is expected to be 0.4%: that is 12% of people with severe and persistent mental illness” (Paul O’Halloran, About Psychosocial Disability and the NDIS, sourced from the NDIS website)

    We don’t know what ILC will fund and therefore it is critical that support programs and systems for the “88%” remain in place until there is a guaranteed and effective replacement for them.

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