Policy Submission: NDIS services for people with psychosocial disabilities
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The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a critical social welfare reform in Australia and presents a genuine opportunity for people living with psychosocial disability to receive the support needed to deliver transformational benefits. These are benefits that assist the person to build confidence, to build knowledge and skill, to build access to ordinary mainstream resources like other people, to build personal networks, and to find genuine fair-waged work.
Such support has been lacking in the past, and even current services are struggling to provide for people living with severe mental illness. The sector has identified a need for an NDIS that is consistent with contemporary recovery-focussed practice (an acknowledgement that a psychosocial disability can be episodic and may not be permanent) and there is a need to expand services rather than reduce them.
We know that a significant number of people will not be eligible for the NDIS and this raises questions about what support and services will be available as Commonwealth funded programs such a Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMS), Partners in Recovery (PIR) and Day to Day Living are absorbed into the scheme.
It is hoped that the NDIS principles of continuity of support and of no disadvantage will prevail but this will be of little comfort to those people who have already fallen through the gap and are not currently receiving any services.
Psychosocial disability has been defined by Mental Health Australia as:
Psychosocial disability is an internationally recognised term under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, used to describe the experience of people with impairments and participation restrictions related to mental health conditions. These impairments can include a loss of ability to function, think clearly, experience full physical health, and manage the social and emotional aspects of their lives.
Furthermore, Mental Health Australia emphasise that the term psychosocial disability includes the ‘social consequences of disability’- the effects on someone’s ability to participate fully in life as a result of mental ill-health. This social consequence could impact on individuals’ opportunities to take part in social, educational or training activities. Psychosocial disability differs from physical and sensory disabilities in significant ways. These differences may affect people’s ability to seek and access services through the NDIS, and their eligibility for them. For instance, people with a psychosocial disability may be less likely than people with other types of disability to identify themselves as living with disability and seek support. This is important to bear in mind within the framework of the NDIS as the umbrella category of “disability” may not be a category that people with mental health related conditions readily identify with.