Urgent action is needed to ensure there is adequate support for people who have a mental illness and are not eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), mental health service providers say.
Money from a number of federal programs is being rolled into the NDIS but not everyone currently receiving that support will be able to access the scheme.
Connie Digolis from the Mental Health Council of Tasmania said work was currently underway to find out exactly how many people would not be covered by the NDIS.
“As we’re starting to understand more about the criteria and how people are being assessed for their eligibility, then we’re starting to see figures that are suggesting perhaps 90 per cent of people with a mental illness who are currently receiving services may not qualify for NDIS,” she said.
Ms Digolis said any gap could put pressure on the state’s health system.
“We could potentially see people who have effectively been able to live in the community and have been able to remain well and independent that they may end up becoming more ill so we could find that we have an increased demand on our public mental health services,” she said.
The Mental Health Council is organising a meeting with the Tasmanian Government to discuss the issue.
Funding from programs such as Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMs) has started being “cashed in” to the NDIS for age groups that are able to access the new scheme.
Anglicare Tasmania has been running the program in parts of the state and acting CEO Darryl Lamb said they were trying to quantify how many people would miss out.
“People are making judgments and estimates that are wildly varying,” he said.
“Our own guess for a program like the PHaMs program is that it’ll be somewhere around 60 to 70 per cent of those people will be eligible, and that may sound good, but it means 30 to 40 per cent won’t.
“We’re talking about 100 people in a full-blown NDIS scheme would not be getting support.”
Program funding already reduced
Mr Lamb said overall the NDIS would be beneficial for people with a metal illness but a universal safety net needed to be implemented.
“There are people who are getting packages, who are getting much more support than they were getting under the former system,” he said.
“We’ve replaced a substantial amount of the supports for people with a disability through the NDIS mechanism with individual packages.”
“But it still means there are plenty of people who need intermittent support or support for a reasonable length of time … That’s what’s missing.”
In a statement, the Federal Government acknowledged some clients of existing programs would not be eligible for the NDIS, but insisted they would still get help and said it was committed to “continuity of support”.
It said Commonwealth program clients would continue to receive support through existing programs, and decisions about continuity of support in the longer term “would be made in the light of experience in the trial and transition phases”.
Mr Lamb said that sounded “hollow” since he had seen funding for PHaMs cut by about $315,000.
“I don’t see how we can have continuity of care for those young people if we don’t have any money,” he said.
Senate inquiry investigating
A senate inquiry has been established to investigate the provision of services under the NDIS for people with psychosocial disabilities related to a mental health condition.
Mr Lamb said the inquiry was a hopeful sign the issue had been noticed at a national level.
“We need to see something today,” he said.
“Right now, across the state, young people who could have accessed the Personal Helpers and Mentors program aged under 28 cannot.
“Unless they can get an NDIS package, there is no support available to them.”