Annual Conference

Psychosocial disability and the NDIS – is there a “Catch 22”?

By March 6, 2017 No Comments

The idea of choice is great – so important and relevant to recovery to be the master of your own destiny buuuut does the reality match the hopeful aspirations of what the NDIS can bring?

When the UK government rolled out its equivalent to the NDIS they admitted that people with a mental illness did not access it at anything like the predicted rates, whereas people with other needs such as intellectual or developmental disabilities did.

The NDIS is already showing a similar pattern. In addition, a 2015 NDIA annual report states that people with a psycho-social disability have a one in four chance of rejection in their application to the NDIS, whereas people with other disability types have only a one in nine chance of rejection. Why is this? A full answer to that question is possibly a horribly complicated one, but there is also a simple way of looking at it.

Imagine a shop opens up on the edge of a battlefield. A spruiker stands outside the shop with a megaphone and shouts “roll up, roll up – all your needs will be met! Just come to the shop and ask”.

In no time at all a huge queue stretches out as far as the eye can see – strong evidence of enormous unmet need. A closer look at the people in the queue, however, seems to indicate a lot of people in the queue have no immediately visible disability. Who are they? They are the carers and advocates of people who cannot easily represent their own needs and wants.

The NDIS has, for example, had far more people with a development disorder, such as autism, justifiably present to the NDIS than was expected. I will bet that in most cases they are not making their own representations, or perhaps even, their own informed choices.

People who know what they need can represent their own interests or have people who will be their representatives. These are the active users of choice-base systems like the NDIS. Often they have had a desperate longing for exactly the type of assistance the NDIS can bring. The NDIS is a good thing.

Meanwhile, back out on the battlefield of life, some people are still struggling, not yet ready to ask for or even conceive of the help they need. Sometimes they are even running in the opposite direction to the help they need – back out into the battle. That is their choice.

In the spirit of recovery, mental health services have slowly tried to get better at being led by the person rather pushing the person up the “rehabilitation mountain”. Soon, many people will only be able to access those services if they have an NDIS package. Does this situation inadvertently amount to a “Catch 22” scenario?

That is – if you have a severe psycho-social disability you may be eligible for the NDIS, however you may not be able to represent your interests in a way that will trigger a positive assessment. On the other hand, if you are able to represent your interests well, it may appear (in the absence of any other type of disability) that you don’t have a significant psycho-social disability and are therefore not eligible!

For whatever reason 70 – 75% of people with severe mental illness in Australia (PIR CANSAS NSW stats 2015/16)  state that they have no carer. Without a carer who is to provide a “ramp-up” to the NDIS for people with significant psycho-social disabilities?

What will happen if, because of unequal access to the NDIS, it is discovered that money that previously funded mental health services is now serving people with other disabilities? Will it be too late to fix this?

– Written by a Summer Forum Delegate