Wellways backs the call from Community Mental Health Australia (CMHA) to listen to the experts in our sector, as people are increasingly left behind by the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The plea comes as research from Sydney University and CMHA found people with mental health conditions are falling through the cracks and losing their traditional support in the NDIS rollout.

The Mind the Gap report, released today, spoke to 60 experts from across Australia and found systematic problems for people with psychosocial disability in receiving NDIS support and a lack of understanding about their predicament.

“People whose disability may not be immediately obvious are routinely misunderstood or sidelined in the transition to the NDIS. We are seeing it daily but our concerns are falling on deaf ears,” Wellways Australia Chief Executive Officer, and CMHA President, Elizabeth Crowther said.

“We know people with a psychosocial disability are routinely refused access to the NDIS and we are calling on the National Disability Insurance Agency to fix this. At the same they are losing their existing supports. This is despite reassurances no one would be disadvantaged in the transition to the NDIS.

“Not only are gaps emerging, they’re growing,” Ms Crowther said.

CMHA Vice President Kerry Hawkins called on all governments and the NDIA to listen to the community managed mental health sector that has the experience, knowledge and expertise to identify the solutions to address serious gaps emerging through the introduction of the NDIS.

The Mind the Gap Report is a partnership between The Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney and CMHA.

Around 60 expert stakeholders from across Australia, including consumers, providers and advocacy organisations involved in psychosocial disability aspects of the NDIS, were engaged to identify existing and emerging gaps and propose policy solutions to address the gaps.

“The report reinforces the gaps the sector has been identifying for some time with the NDIS for people with psychosocial disability including that people are not engaging, not applying or withdrawing from applying; that the criteria are creating barriers and challenges; support to access the NDIS is lacking; and there is a lack of understanding about psychosocial disability within the NDIA”, Ms Hawkins said.

“The report also confirmed the huge gap in the involvement of and support for carers and families, and the impact the NDIS is having on the sustainability and viability of service providers. The other significant issue, which is one of the most serious concerns for the sector, is the gaps beyond the NDIS for people who won’t be eligible for the NDIS and who will lose their support when funding – both federal, state and territory – moves to the NDIS”.

The problem of access to the NDIS by people with serious mental health issues has also been identified by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP).

“The RANZCP has long been concerned over the ability of the NDIS to support people with serious mental illness,” said acting RANZCP President Associate Professor John Allan.

The recent report of the government’s withdrawal of support for 75 per cent of the people with serious mental illness who are currently in the ‘Personal helpers and mentors’ (Phams) program is deeply concerning.

“The funding for many of these people is being withdrawn based on the assumption that their payments from the NDIS will cover the cost of involvement in the Phams program.

“However, many people who are severely impacted by mental illness are ineligible for NDIS support due to their failure to meet NDIS eligibility criteria such as permanency of disability, age and residency requirements,” Associate Professor Allan said.