If you’re living with a disability that arises from your mental health conditions, you may be eligible for some financial relief for mental health support through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (the NDIS). The NDIS refers to this as living with a ‘psychosocial disability’.
Financial support and a network of NDIS supports are available Australia-wide and are designed to ensure everyone with a permanent disability, including a psychosocial disability, gets the supports they need, or may need, throughout their lifetime so they can live the life they want. Approximately 11% people who access the NDIS access it for a primary or secondary psychosocial disability. We guesstimate that many others may not be accessing the NDIS because they’re not aware that it’s available for mental health conditions.
However, as the NDIS application process and its support network are both quite tricky to navigate, we suggest to not do it alone. The smallest mistake could affect whether or not you qualify for the support.
Ask for help from a local area coordinator, a GP, a disability support provider or mental health support provider with a good track record helping clients to qualify for the NDIS. They know what to say to help get the right kind of the supports, the right amount of funding, and help request more if the support needs change.
Video: What is the NDIS? By NDIS Australia.
How the funding may be used
First, let’s talk about what the NDIS doesn’t support.
The NDIS will not fund clinical treatments or clinical supports related to mental health, including:
- acute, ambulatory and continuing care in the community
- medications to manage the symptoms of a mental health condition
- inpatient treatment or clinical rehabilitation
- treatment for drug or alcohol dependency
- and psychology treatments and any therapies that help address, stabilise or manage the symptoms that arise as a result of the psychosocial disability
This is because clinical treatment is the responsibility of the health system.
NDIS will fund non-clinical mental health supports, and can be used when the person needs help with daily living activities, participate in their community, have a social life, undertake studies, keep a job, regain and develop skills and confidence to live and enjoy life.
What if I have other disabilities?
They may be eligible to access additional NDIS support.
If granted NDIS funding for mental health, you may be able to use it in the following ways:
Many participants use funding toward ongoing personal care, support at home (such as cooking and cleaning), support accessing the community, going to work, and participating in social and economic activities, including sports.
Capacity Building Supports
Often used for therapies (such as with a psychologist) and supports that help you develop everyday life skills, make decisions, plan and manage daily routines, manage money.
Specialised support for anyone with behaviours that are considered to be challenging and may prevent them from getting support. For example, the specialist helps you and your family work better together.
These are supports that help you learn new skills to find and keep a job, such as catching public transport, maintaining good personal care and grooming, and how to communicate in a workplace.
Some people find it hard to obtain and retain suitable accommodation. There’s an option to seek support from someone who can help you find a place to rent or buy, and to manage tenancy or owner obligations.
This is for those who need help managing the funds included in their NDIS plan. You must tell the NDIS upfront that you need to engage a plan manager to do things such as process invoices and pay the support providers. The NDIS provides specific funding in the plan for engaging the plan manager.
Psychosocial Recovery Coaches
You may engage a long-term recovery coach who focuses on the recovery journey. The recovery coach can work with you and your family, carer and service providers to design, plan and implement the best Recovery plan. We recommend choosing a recovery coach with lived experience or knowledge of psychosocial disability and mental health. The NDIS allows specific funding in the plan for engaging the recovery coach.
There’s the option to engage a support coordinator short term to help get the most out of the NDIS plan. They also explain the plan, help find supports that are a good match and prepare for plan reviews. Although the NDIS says that participants may choose to have both a recovery coach and a support coordinator, they recommend only having a recovery coach because recovery coaches can usually coordinate the plan. The NDIS allocates funding for engaging the coordinator.
Qualifying for the NDIS
To be eligible for the NDIS for psychosocial supports, you must
- be aged between 7 and 65 years old
- live in Australia
- be an Australian citizen, permanent resident, or special category visa holder, and
- have a disability caused by a permanent psychosocial, intellectual, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairment. This means you require disability-specific supports to complete some or all of your daily life activities and tasks. In addition, you could benefit from some supports today to hopefully not need as much support in the future. Your carer or family may also receive some supports to build their skills to better support you.
Each person’s eligibility for the NDIS is unique, so it’s best to talk to a health professional you trust, and who knows you best.
How to apply for the NDIS
Anyone applying for the NDIS for psychosocial disability must complete the following forms downloadable from the NDIS website. There’s no need to go to the local NDIS branch to apply unless you need assistance filling your forms.
Evidence of Psychosocial Disability form
Section A by a psychiatrist, GP, or most appropriate clinician, and Section B by your support worker or appropriate person.
Access Request form
Section 1 is for you to complete (the applicant), and Section 2 by your treating professional. The Access Request may be done over the phone, but still needs the same information.
Read these before applying
These booklets are provided by the NDIS for you to familiarise yourself with the NDIS, what it’s about, how you can use it, and more:
If you have further questions, the NDIS can assist, or you may contact an organisation that assists NDIS participants.
What happens once approved
Similarly to the process for applying to the NDIS for other disability supports, the process for applying for NDIS for psychosocial disability generally includes the following:
- An officer from the local NDIS or community-based organisation that works with the NDIA gets in touch with you to book an initial meeting.
- You attend the initial meeting to discuss your support needs. You may bring your support persons, plus further evidence of support needs and perhaps a personal statement of supports needed on a day-to-day basis.
- You choose how to manage your NDIS funding. You can choose one method or a combination of three options: self-managed (seek and pay providers), plan-managed (a plan manager pays providers) or NDIA-managed (the agency pays providers). Some people self-manage one part of their plans and then let the NDIA to manage the rest.
- An NDIS planner assesses the information from the initial meeting and determines what supports should be approved.
- You receive an official NDIS plan with the approved supports and are offered an ‘implementation meeting’ with either the NDIS planner or an NDIS partner. This is to help kickstart your plan.
Choosing NDIS providers & supports
Once you have received your NDIS plan you will be able to use it to access support providers that meet your needs.
There are many things that you may want to look for when choosing support providers, and we’ve listed some good starting points in How to Choose NDIS Providers for Mental Health.
Your rights summarised
A person on the NDIS has a lot of rights when accessing and using the NDIS. There is legislation that provides guidelines and rules for the NDIA and Providers when working with individuals accessing and using the NDIS. Some of the main things to remember are that you, as the consumer (service user) has:
- The right to support: You have the right to bring along an informal support person at any stage of the NDIS process. You can ask a support person to assist you with the Access Request process, be with you during any review or planning meetings, or to assist you to work with supports when you are using your plan. You don’t have to have a formal support person but if you’d like to nominate someone you can request to have a ‘Plan Nominee’ appointed, more information can be found here on the NDIS section for Guardians and Nominees website.
- Choice and control: One of the main principles of the NDIS is people’s right to ‘choice and control’ over their supports. This means you should never be in a position where you are ‘locked in’ to a specific support provider. You should be able to choose whichever supports you feel are the best fit for you, and you should be able to decide how these supports will be delivered.
- The right to lodge a complaint: If you have had a bad experience at any stage of the NDIS process or when communicating with NDIS representatives, you have a right to provide feedback or make a complaint. The NDIA have a department dedicated to receiving and handling any complaints about NDIA representatives and processes. They can be contacted by phone, email, letter, or via an NDIS online form.
- A right to quality and safe supports: You have a right to safe and great standard supports. The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission is responsible for making sure that NDIS providers are delivering their supports in a safe way and for the best possible outcomes for people accessing the NDIS. If you are ever in a situation where you are receiving care that is not appropriate, or where a provider has put you at risk, you can contact the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission and they will then investigate the situation and take action to make sure it doesn’t happen again. More information about the NDIS Quality and Safeguard Commission is available on the NDIS Commission website.
If you’re considering applying for the NDIS for mental health, the first step is to talk to a local area coordinator, a GP, a disability support provider or mental health support provider with a good track record helping people to qualify for the NDIS. They know the process in and out, and how to ensure you get the right kind of supports, the right amount of funding, and the help you need to request more funding or support if your needs change.
NDIS for Mental HealthWhat is psychosocial disability, who is eligible to apply for NDIS funding for it, and how to use the funding. Visit site(Opens in a new tab)
NDIS Registered Provider FinderUse this tool to find a registered provider and then find out about service agreements and service bookings. Visit site(Opens in a new tab)
NDIS Plan Implementation DirectoryThe NDIS provides as plan implementation directory that links to important information to help NDIS participants, their families, and carers make better choices about how to use their NDIS plans, including for mental health. Visit site(Opens in a new tab)
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