Mental health carer concerned over ACT transition to NDIS

Mental health professionals and carers are concerned people with mental illnesses could slip through the gaps during Canberra’s transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Janet, who asked her last name not be used for privacy reasons, cares for a family member with a mental illness.

She said it was a tough job made harder by the added fear that people with mental illnesses might have to navigate a complicated new system.

The NDIS trial in the ACT began in July with the transition to the full scheme due to begin in July 2016.

Eleven of the 24 government-funded mental health providers in the ACT will be affected by the program.

Janet said although she was optimistic about the rollout of the NDIS, she also had concerns.

“It’s teething problems basically, obviously people get worried,” she said.

She said many carers and mental health patients were anxious to see the scheme rolled out appropriately.

“Hopefully by the time we get fully transitioned they will have ironed out a lot of the issues,” she said.

“And maybe the services will have a better idea of what consumers and carers want, and what they need.”

Janet said accommodation for people with mental illnesses was a service not currently included in the NDIS program.

“Although they have said the NDIS won’t provide bricks and mortar, hopefully one day it will,” she said.

“If we had appropriate and supportive and safe accommodation for people with severe mental illness and other areas of disability then a lot of issues that they experience will just go away.

“The type of accommodation that these people have to live in actually contributes to their unwellness. [But] it’s in the too hard basket because it costs money and it’s real estate.”

Today, in the middle of Mental Health Week, health professionals met to launch a new guide for ACT carers and families.

Mental Health Foundation president Angie Ingram said the guide will help carers navigate the mental health system.

“One of the hardest things is to actually get through the system, to get from A to B,” she said.

“Carers are on the outside a lot of the time looking in.

“This guide will actually help them to do that in the acute setting. I think that’s quite crucial.”

Ms Ingram said she was also concerned that mental illnesses had not been a focus of the NDIS program.

“Change is difficult for a person that’s not living with mental illness, change for people living with mental illness is an issue,” she said.

“They may be ineligible for the NDIS, we don’t know at this point. There are discussions but there’s nothing concrete.

“There may be some people there that fall through the gaps.”

NDIS provides ‘opportunity’ for innovative services

But despite her concerns, Janet said she remained hopeful the NDIS could adequately cater to the needs of people with mental illness.

“It’s an opportunity for services to think outside the box and create other services that the customers want,” she said.

“The NDIS is actually something that is hopeful because it’s a customer and carer choice that families can make.”

She said some mental health services would transition into the NDIS.

“The NDIS came into being because there aren’t enough services and there isn’t enough support, and there isn’t enough of the right services and the right support,” she said.

In a statement the NDIS Taskforce said not everyone with a mental illness would be eligible for the new program, but those currently assisted and not eligible would have continued support.