Explaining the NDIS – and just where psychology fits in the scheme

12 January 2020

‘How society treats its disabled is the true measure of a civilisation.’

This quote from human rights activist Chen Guancheng perfectly encapsulates our responsibility to care and provide support to people with a disability.

Enter the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The NDIS has been a ground-breaking change to the way Australia funds and delivers disability services. But what is it all about? What does it mean for psychology? And how can it help you – or your loved one?

NDIS in a nutshell

The scheme provides support to Australians (under the age of 65) with a permanent and significant disability, as well as their families and carers.

As of January 2019, more than 250,000 Australians receive support under this world-leading scheme.

By providing the assistance they need to enjoy an ordinary life, the NDIS helps people with disability achieve their goals. This includes fostering independence and community involvement – to necessities such as education, employment, health and wellbeing. It also provides information and referrals to existing support services within the community.

The NDIS has replaced a disability system that was unfair and, it’s fair to say, inefficient.

Where does mental health fit in?

As you may expect, disability comes in many different forms.

You may be born with a disability or it may be acquired later in life. It may affect your mobility, or ability to communicate. It may be hidden or visible, permanent or temporary and sometimes it’s more than one. And it may be physical or mental.

A psychosical disability is one which arises from a mental health condition. Of course, not everyone with a mental health condition will have a psychosocial disability. But for those who do, it’s often debilitating and long-lasting. And it can have a significant impact on their day to day life.

Can the NDIS help you?

The goal of the NDIS is to provide support that leads to a journey of recovery, where recovery is about achieving a state of optimal personal, emotional and social wellbeing, as defined by you.

This may mean living with, or, recovering from mental health issues.

The NDIS offers a lifetime commitment to reasonable and necessary support around everyday activities – underpinned by hope and optimism. The key principles that align with this recovery are choice and control, along with increased social and economic participation. We all know how important connectedness and relationships are to our health and wellbeing.

In an individual plan, there may flexibility built around providing more support when you need it most, and less when you don’t.

What are the psychosocial disability requirements for the NDIS?

You need to satisfy three criteria to access the NDIS:

  • You must be under the age of 65 (people over 65 can access the aged care system).
  • You must be an Australian citizen, permanent resident or meet specific VISA requirements living in an area where NDIS is rolling out.
  • And finally, you must meet the disability criteria.

This may be where the waters get murky for some.

You need to prove your mental health condition is permanent or likely-to-be permanent. You also need to show that there are no more appropriate evidence-based treatments that could remedy your mental health condition.

Breaking down the assessment criteria

The functional impact your mental health condition has on your everyday life is also relevant for NDIS access. You will need to prove that it prevents you from functioning without support in at least one of the following areas:

  1. Mobility/motor skills: your ability to move about the home and community carrying out ordinary daily activities
  2. Communication: being understood, understanding others and the ability to express your needs in spoken, written or sign language
  3. Social Interaction: interacting with the community, keeping and making friends and coping with feelings and emotions in a social context
  4. Learning: understanding and remembering information, learning new things and using new skills
  5. Self-care: the ability to meet your own healthcare needs and activities such as hygiene, feeding yourself and grooming
  6. Self-management: the cognitive capacity to organise your life and take personal responsibility

The gap between the NDIS and mental health

The NDIS – expected to meet the needs of 64,000 people with severe mental illness – has the potential to provide enormous benefits to people with psychosocial disability.

But according to a University of Sydney report, people are still having difficulty accessing the scheme and therefore missing out on the services they need.

Research shows that just 6.4% of NDIS participants have a primary psychosocial disability; less than half the number expected of the scheme at full rollout.

The report identifies that part of this problem is lack of knowledge of the NDIS among people with a psychosocial disability. And therefore, individuals are either not applying for support or withdrawing their applications.

How we can help

Our psychologists can conduct an assessment to determine if you meet the psychosocial disability criteria. If we believe you do, we will write a letter of support to the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), addressing the NDIS eligibility criteria.

Alternatively, if you have a copy of your medical history, we can complete the NDIS Evidence of Psychosocial Disability Form and submit it to the NDIA.

We can support you – beyond the assessment

At Positive Psychology, we believe in supporting our NDIS clients beyond assessment to help implement strategies to enrich your daily life.

Our psychologists aim to:

  • Identify and work towards your goals
  • Understand your functional impairment in the 6 areas relevant to the NDIS
  • Empower your support network with tools and techniques for coping with challenges
  • Manage any mental health symptoms by creating a plan and offering ongoing support
  • Help you increase your community engagement and independence.

The Positive Psychology team is also able to conduct annual reviews and provide progress reports to the NDIS.

Ensure that you’re not missing out on NDIS support by speaking with one of our clinical psychologists. Call us on 1300 995 636 to make an appointment.