NDIS failing mental health patients and providers

An ACT study of mental health care provider organisations suggests the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is failing to achieve some of its core aims for persons with a lived experience of severe mental illness.

In a survey reporting on the transition to the NDIS, researchers from The Australian National University's Centre for Mental Health Research found the transition to individualised funding brought significant distress and uncertainty for care provider organisations in the mental health sector.

The researchers identified a number of challenges with the NDIS with respect to mental health care:

  • The model for NDIS funding does not support the varied nature of many mental illnesses;
  • There are issues with eligibility and access; and
  • The application process can be complex and time consuming because The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) planners lack knowledge about the needs of people with mental illness.
  • The managers of NGOs in the mental health sector identified a reduction in the availability of service and programs for this population group. Additionally, the competitive environment had a negative impact on service collaboration and integration of care.

More than 90 per cent of mental health care providers in the ACT (a pilot site for the NDIS scheme) participated in the study. One third of the provider organisations interviewed said they lacked funding stability for longer than 12 months while nine of the 12 services that commented on the impact of the NDIS expressed deep concern with problems with planning and other issues.

Lead researcher and PhD candidate Maryanne Furst said the study found not all experiences were negative.

"Participants with well-developed plans are experiencing improved support," Ms Furst said.

"In any case NDIS has caused major organisational distress in the mental health sector, even in jurisdictions specially prepared for its deployment such as ACT."

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