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Ask Us Anything: NDIS for mental health services

Navigating the NDIS for mental health services is not exactly a walk in the park. In this Q&A, Flexi Support’s Support Coordinator Tiffany Del Moral answers the most frequently asked questions around accessing the NDIS for mental health supports.

Tiffany has experience working as both an NDIS Planner and NDIS Support Coordinator, and has helped over 200 NDIS participants get their plan in action. She says that many people with mental health conditions find the NDIS hard to access. “Equality and inclusion are vital, but unfortunately the scheme’s confusing criteria is a barrier for many people.”

As they say, knowledge is power. And as such, Tiffany strives to help participants interpret the NDIS to make informed decisions. She says, “I hope participants can be empowered to live independently and be in control of their life choices.”

Q: Does COVID-19 affect NDIS-funded home care services for my mental health condition?

A: Everyone copes with the fears and anxieties around COVID-19 differently. Therefore, it’s important to point out: NDIS participants are able to reach out to their providers or enlist the help of a Support Coordinator if their home care services have been adversely affected.

During this difficult time, my priority has been to find ways for participants to continue their support services safely. This has meant rethinking what in-home care services look like in this ‘new norm’ of social distancing.

For example, I recently worked with a participant to purchase an iPad so they could access Telehealth appointments and attend activities from home, like classes and social groups.

Understandably, online services are not practical for everyone. During restricted times, we’ve helped impacted participants write plans for resuming services. This includes making sure that in-home support services follow strict hygiene rules and protocols.

NDIS participants can get support with accessing Telehealth services.

Q: I have a mental health condition, how do I know if I’m eligible for NDIS?

A: To be eligible for the NDIS, you must be:

  • An Australian citizen, or have a permanent or Special Category Visa (SCV)

AND

  • Under 65 years old when you apply to join the NDIS

AND

  • Live in an area where the NDIS is available

If you have a mental health condition and would like to access the NDIS, you must meet the above criteria and also provide evidence that:

  • Your mental health condition has caused difficulties in your everyday life

AND

  • The difficulties you experience as a result of your mental health condition means you will likely always require NDIS support

AND

  • The difficulties you experience as a result of your mental health issue have substantially reduced your ability to do everyday activities

To become an NDIS participant, you must contact the NDIS to discuss your case on 1800 800 110, or consult the website: https://www.ndis.gov.au/applying-access-ndis/am-i-eligible.

Q: How can the NDIS help with my mental health?

A: Mental health supports can be a wide range of services and are not limited to psychological support.

For example, supports can provide social outing companionship to allow participants to engage in activities that are usually hard to access. Here are more examples:

  • Speech Therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Psychology
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Dietician
  • Podiatry
  • Help in the Home (e.g. a carer to help you shop for groceries)
  • Community Access (e.g. activities that promotes wellbeing)
  • Support Coordination (e.g. help to organise appropriate services)
  • …and more

Mental health supports can be NDIS funded as long as it is related to the participant’s condition and is not funded by another government body.

If you’d like to explore your options with Flexi Support, contact us for more information and recommendations.

Stewart’s story provides helpful examples of the NDIS mental health supports that can be funded.

Q: I got turned down for NDIS on the basis that my mental health condition is “not a life-long illness”. What do I do?

A: We understand this is frustrating. Here are some other steps you can try:

  • Mainstream supports

These are education or health services provided by other government agencies or public health organisations.

Mainstream supports are not funded by the NDIS, but an NDIS Planner can assist you to find suitable services.

Another way to access mainstream support services is to contact your local council to see what’s available in your area.

  • Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs), Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Teams (CRHTs)

Community Mental Health services are free to the general public. Ask your GP to see if you’re able to get a referral to access these services.

  • Apply for other payments like the Disability Support Pension

If you can’t get the NDIS, you may be eligible for other payments such as the Disability Support Pension. To check if you’re eligible, visit: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/disability-support-pension.

  • Re-apply for the NDIS

You have the right to re-apply for the NDIS as many times as you wish. There’s no minimum wait time after your first application. The second application will be reviewed similarly as the first.

To strengthen your application, it’s a good idea to provide further evidence (e.g. allied health professional reports, diagnosis etc.) of your condition.

Q: Does applying for the Disability Support Pension or Mental Health Care Plan affect my NDIS funding?

A: No, the NDIS is not means-tested. Funds are individually assessed based on needs rather than wages or Centrelink. Therefore, employment or any other payments you receive will not affect your eligibility or the amount allocated by the NDIS.

This also means that future changes to employment or income does not impact your NDIS plan.

Q: I care for a loved one with a mental health condition, can the NDIS fund respite care?

A: Yes, the NDIS can fund services to provide relief to carers. The NDIS recognises that family and carers—referred to as “informal supports”—play an important role in caring for their loved ones.

As such, respite for carers can be NDIS-funded where it is a “reasonable and necessary” support for participants to reach their goals in life, work, and to be part of the community. The intention is to provide respite options centered around the participant.

In this way, respite for a participant can be:

  • Joining a new community group
  • Having a short stay out of home to try new things, make new friends or develop new skills
  • Temporary periods of extra personal supports, such as an in-home carer, so the participant can remain at home when family or usual carers are not available.
  • Support to participate in community activities, resulting in a break for carers.

Typically, the NDIS doesn’t support clinical services that are funded by the health system, such as psychiatry services or medication.

It’s worth noting too, in cases where the NDIS decide not to fund for respite, you may ask for a review or try other funding pathways.

If you’d like to discuss your options for respite care, you can contact providers like Flexi Support for more information.

Q: Who can help me with my NDIS plan?

A: The NDIS can be confusing, but you’re not alone. The following services can assist you with your NDIS plan:

  • Support Coordinator
  • Local Area Coordinator
  • Early Childhood Early Intervention
  • NDIS Planner

Flexi Support offers Support Coordinator services. If you’d like to ask our team a question about your NDIS plan, contact us by phone or email.

A Support Coordinator is one service that can help you with your NDIS plan.

Q: Can I get mental health services with the NDIS in languages other than English?

A: Yes, all NDIS participants and carers can access free language interpreting services. NDIS registered service providers like Flexi Support are able to organise interpreter services—free of charge— to help you use the supports you have funded in your plan.

The NDIS also have ‘Easy Read’ booklets available on their website. These can be found here: https://www.ndis.gov.au/about-us/publications/booklets-and-factsheets

Alternatively, you can call TIS National 131 450

Conclusion

Understandably, it can be hard to make heads or tails out of the NDIS for mental health services. But know that you don’t have to go through the process alone.

If you’d like some help from the Flexi Support team, reach out. We’re happy to answer your questions.


Contributor Bio:

Tiffany Del Moral
Flexi Support Support Coordinator

Tiffany is our compassionate Support Coordinator at Flexi Support. An advocate for inclusion and equality, she has helped over 200 NDIS participants get their plan in action. With her background in children’s development and psychology, Tiffany is inspired by, and shares her mum’s passion for lifelong learning and assisting others.

Please note:

Flexi Support is not an emergency service. Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (up to age 25).

More information about mental health is available at Beyond Blue.