What is this NDIS thing anyway…what’s in it for people living with mental illness?

We have been talking with lots of people about the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Lots of people are interested but don’t really understand what it’s all about.

Here are some things we have come to know.

  • NDIS originally was developed to support people with developmental disability, following strong advocacy from individuals with disability and their families for more and better services.
  • Later people living with mental illness were included in the scheme, with a focus on psychosocial disability (this just means, the way a mental illness can impact on a person’s day to day life).
  • The intent of the NDIS is that people have more control over their support and services. So, each person gets a plan and it is likely to include things that will be helpful like allocated money to hire someone to help you with managing the things that can be hard. People get help with things like keeping to a budget, getting out and involved with new opportunities, learning new things, getting a job, keeping your house tidy and much more. Of course there are lots more things that might be included in your plan it’s all up to what’s important to you (and the thing the scheme calls reasonable and necessary).
  • The NDIS won’t be available to everyone who could benefit from support. In WA around 6000 people living with a mental illness are expected to be eligible for the scheme and this is much less than the 50,000 people we know are supported through public mental health services each year. Thankfully other community support services will still be available to people who aren’t eligible for NDIS and we are hoping these will grow and be contemporary and effective.
  • It can be an interesting process working through eligibility and getting to the NDIS plan but it is worth persisting. National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), who run the scheme, are trying to get a better experience for people getting through the access process but you may still experience some frustrations gathering all the necessary information.

How do will I know if I am eligible?

  • It’s all about how your daily life is impacted by a mental illness. You need to experience a significant impact in some area of your daily life like communication, interaction with others, mobility or managing your day to day affairs. It can be a bit exasperating as there is no clear list of who might be eligible. It’s best to contact the NDIA and talk this through.
  • If you are eligible and get a plan, you get lots of choices about how it works (who organises your support, who provides your support, when, where and how). Sometimes people find this overwhelming but just start slow and there are lots of great people out there to help if you need it (some not so great people too, so be alert and seek a trusted friend if you’re not sure).
  • The NDIS is different from income support so it does not impact on your income or disability support pension. It really is about helping you to get on top of things that haven’t been working in your life and achieving some of the things that matter to you.
  • We see people living with mental illness, who have been really isolated for a long time, now getting out and about. We see people’s confidence blossom, with the right support. We see people better able to manage their physical and mental health and wellbeing. Often just a little bit of support can make a big difference.

So this is what we have come to know about the NDIS. It has its challenges but when you weigh all these up against the possibilities, we think it has the potential to offer great things for many people.

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