Weekly CEO Update: Outreach and connecting the community to the NDIS is a must

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In amongst the ongoing debate and discussion around Independent Assessments in the NDIS, as well as a change in Minister, the silent success of the National Community Connectors Program (NCCP) and its huge potential nationally, seems to have gone unnoticed.

In recent weeks we have written to the NDIA, and the new Minister for the NDIS, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds, to reiterate that psychosocial supports must be available and accessible in the NDIS

We’ve also emphasised how Mental Health Australia can continue to support the ongoing need for active outreach for people living with psychosocial disability to engage with the NDIS

As many of you will know, Mental Health Australia has been a champion for psychosocial disability supports in the NDIS for many years now. 

In 2018, Mental Health Australia undertook extensive consultations to identify improvements that could better support people with psychosocial disabilities entering the Scheme. Twenty-nine recommendations were made and the majority were accepted by the NDIA. This led to a major shift towards a recovery-orientated model that is in the process of being implemented. 

However there has been less progress on the provision of assertive outreach that was recommended as part of NDIS pre-engagement to build trust with people who have psychosocial disabilities, many of whom have highly negative perceptions and experiences of government agencies, clinicians and providers.

So it was with much enthusiasm that Mental Health Australia partnered with the NDIA last year to implement a component of the National Community Connector Program in seven Local Government Areas, supporting people with psychosocial disability and experiencing or at risk of homelessness to engage with the NDIS

The NCCP has found people living with psychosocial disability face many barriers to engaging with the NDIS, further increased by the experience of homelessness. Barriers include the experience of complex trauma, distrust of government and service providers, difficulty collating supporting evidence and difficulty fulfilling requirements. Given this, it can take on average six months to support someone living with psychosocial disability and housing insecurity to apply for access to the NDIS.

In short then, 12 months has not been enough time for a program like the NCCP to be fully embedded and engaging. And just like Partners In Recovery before it, the NCCP will finish in June, despite being positively received by consumers, carers and service providers and really only starting to grow in its ability to connect those most in need of the psychosocial supports the NDIS can provide.

Rather than a cessation of this successful program, we need to ensure active outreach support to engage with the NDIS and other services continues and more to the point is made available nationally, to all people experiencing psychosocial disability and complex needs.

And when it comes to the currently polarising issue of Independent Assessments, Mental Health Australia supports the underlying principles of fairness, consistency and functional capacity. What is needed now is active partnership to plan implementation carefully together and in partnership across the NDIA, providers and people with psychosocial disability and their carers and families.

Finally, Mental Health Australia supports the National Disability Strategic Plan that will guide the national future approach to providing for and supporting Australians with a disability. A human rights approach is fundamental to supporting fair access to services for those who most need them. The NCCP has been an active successful program in guiding some of the most disadvantaged Australians to access the services they need.

Eight years on since the NDIS Act 2013 was first legislated, there is still much to do to continue to improve the Scheme, and ensure it has the capability and connections to improve the mental health of thousands in our communities. 

Have a good weekend.

Leanne Beagley
CEO

On Monday I am meeting with Nick Tebby from Relationships Australia and later with Caroline Crosse about WISE Ways to Work, a program for people with a mental illness who have employment and other vocational goals.

On Tuesday there is an all-day meeting to progress the Primary Care Reform Strategy, and on Wednesday I will be chairing a webinar for TheMHS on “Post-traumatic stress disorder, complex trauma and substance use” and then attending the Future Generation Mental Health Funders Forum.

On Thursday I have meetings with Blue Knot, the NSW Mental Health Commission, Suicide Prevention Australia and Social Ventures Australia.

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