Last week, the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme tabled a report outlining their concerns over the eligibility criteria for people with mental health concerns.

Aftercare’s Executive Director of Business and Capability Development Isabelle Meyer responds to the report below;

It’s time to reflect on what the NDIS is truly about. Are we really implementing significant changes to the way we assist those with a disability and their families, or are we moving the bureaucratic deck of chairs and forcing a productivity dividend on the most vulnerable in the process? Last week the Joint Standing Committee of Parliament released its recommendations regarding transition to the scheme.

One of these, responding to the numerous problems with the assessment process that were documented in the hearings, was that everyone currently in a PHaMs program should automatically be given a package. While this partially solves a process problem, it does something worse – it further disenfranchises those with a mental illness from truly benefitting from participation in the scheme.

The current assessment process takes too long and the NDIA administration of access is inconsistent and discriminates in favour of those that can use technology to access information and participate in on-line processes. But the assessment process does one thing (conceptually at least) that is very important. It allows for the individual’s needs to be documented and responded to in the setting of the value of the package to be received and the types of assistance required. To automatically pass people through is to tacitly confine them to a one size fits all approach- the very thing the scheme was being implemented to eradicate.

One thing that we in the mental health sector know is that you don’t fix problems by avoiding them, so even as a fast track measure, this isn’t going to work, in fact, for many this approach will be  worse than the delay, because it will significantly reduce the amount and type of assistance they will receive.

The Committee hearings were a case study in how little actual listening and sharing of information has taken place during transition to date. This includes from within Government and its own programs. For example, over many years now, the Government has funded programs designed to build expertise in coordination supports for those with a mental illness. These programs, principally the PHAMs and PIR programs would have been well placed to deliver the missing piece for the implementation of the scheme, and become the LAC Services. The NDIA has precluded anyone operating one of these programs from taking on this role. Millions of dollars of tax payers’ money spent in developing capacity and skill and now we are going to waste it? It would seem so, even though the problem crippling the system could be fixed by allowing PIR programs in particular to do the job.

Then there is the timing issue- funds are being withdrawn well ahead of the NDIS roll out taking effect. Overall, the sector has taken a more than 30% cut in income, and the promised scheme that would provide the alternative revenue has not arrived. The clients are there, but the money is not.  The delays in assessing and setting up packages mean that the clients still have an expectation of continuous service but the resources available to deliver them are shrinking.

In an attempt to assist our clients to access packages to which they are entitled, Aftercare has developed tools which help them gather evidence and document the impact their illness has on their lives. We have been trialling this tool for over a year now.

We raised with the Committee that we have developed and tested our own tool because there was no endorsed and validated tool for assessing the functional impact of mental illness on a person’s life and wellbeing – we have shared it widely, providing it to GP’s and others to assist them in their part of the process.

The elephant in the room for the future of the NDIS and successful transition (as opposed to what we have now) is the question of collaboration. For our participants, we want this to work. We believe that after 110 years of helping our clients achieve their goals and transition into and remain productively part of the community, we have some expertise to offer as do many others. Perhaps a less siloed approach, truly focussed on enabling participants, will help us all to move forward.

We would like to applaud the Committee for taking the time to listen and hear the many voices who support this reform.

  • Isabelle Meyer

Are you a GP helping your patients through the NDIS process? You can contact Aftercare anytime about accessing our Impact Assessment Matrix.

Please contact us on 1300 00 1907 or email

You can read the Joint Standing Committee report here

You can also read one of the many articles published surrounding the report here

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