Speech by The Hon Jane Prentice MP

National NDIS Mental Health Conference


Good morning.

I will start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to their elders—past, present and emerging.

I am pleased to be able to join you today to talk about one of the biggest social reforms in Australian history: the creation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (the NDIS) and what this means for people with psychosocial disability.

Nationally, we now have more than 100,000 participants in the Scheme. We have a large and complex task ahead of us, as we continue to gradually transition to providing support for around 460,000 Australians with disability.

The NDIS represents a profound shift in the way people with disability participate in their community and a smarter and fairer way of providing support.

The NDIS is now in its fourth year of operation. Its three-year trial has ended, and we are 16 months into transition to full scheme.

People supported under the NDIS, no matter who they are, have the opportunity to achieve their goals and to lead the life they choose.

The other 3.8 million Australians who identify as living with a disability, will continue to receive services through the State governments. The National Disability Strategy guides initiatives for all people with disability.

We know that people affected by psychosocial disability find it difficult to set goals, make plans, engage in education, training and employment, as well as taking part in social and cultural activities.

Many face lives characterised by isolation, inappropriate living conditions and physical ill-health. They may require help, or guidance and prompting to perform everyday tasks.

The Productivity Commission has estimated that at full scheme there will be around 64,000 people accessing the NDIS with a primary psychosocial disability.

Access to the NDIS is not contingent upon a psychiatric diagnosis. It is based on a functional, practical assessment of what a person can and cannot do.

Delivering services for people with a disability is a team effort. Governments at all levels need to work with providers and other stakeholders – and we are going to keep doing that. This conference is a great example of government, providers and the community coming together to prioritise mental health.

The NDIS is a smarter and fairer way of supporting people with disability, including psychosocial disabilities.

This is a major change, so it is important to get it right. That is why the rollout is occurring gradually across Australia over several years.

The new system recognises that most families cannot adequately prepare for the risks and financial impacts of significant disability.

NDIS support is not a one size fits all approach. Each person’s plan is different, based on how their disability affects their daily life and their goals. The NDIS gives choice and control to participants over the services and supports they use so can live the life they choose.

Support through the NDIS takes a lifetime approach and a participant’s plan will obviously change over time, as their needs and goals change. It can increase options such as getting a job or doing more activities in the community.

The Scheme is not about welfare, it is an insurance scheme. It takes a lifetime approach, investing in people early which maximises opportunities and minimises costs over a person’s lifetime.

We know that transitioning from one system to another is never easy, and there are challenges, particularly related to how people with psychosocial disability access the Scheme.

Regular consultation with Commonwealth community-based mental health providers has identified the need to help providers navigate the NDIS, so they in turn can guide people with a psychosocial disability through the access process.

Community-based mental health providers are at the front line of helping their clients access the NDIS and providing the right tools to help them is vital.

The Australian Government recently introduced a number of practical measures to assist mental health providers to help their clients navigate the NDIS.

This includes a new access guide for providers that simplifies NDIS requirements, such as explaining how clients can test their eligibility and gather the necessary evidence to meet the NDIS criteria.

The guide is publicly available online and we have some printed copies available here today. It was developed in conjunction with the National Disability Insurance Agency, the Department of Health, Flinders University, community-based mental health providers, and peak bodies.

It contains valuable insights and practical advice based on providers’ own experiences. It has hints, tips, and real life experiences to help simplify the NDIS requirements.

The guide was field tested with the mental health sector, consumers, and carers to ensure it is helpful and easy to use.

Other initiatives helping mental health providers include workshops where providers can meet peers to discuss issues and solutions, and a dedicated web portal for mental health providers with tools and resources for their use.

Through my stakeholder meetings, I often hear of innovative approaches that support people with psychosocial disability to understand and engage with the NDIS. For example, Queensland Disability Network uses games to provide information about the NDIS for people who are socially isolated.

Following a comprehensive review of the participant and provider pathway, the NDIA is undertaking significant work to improve participant and provider experiences and interactions with the scheme.

Central to the new participant pathway is the choice of face-to-face engagement for all NDIS plan development. This improvement has already resulted in a substantial increase in the number of plans being developed in person.

The new pathway approach also includes a consistent point of contact, who plays a key role in empowering participants to achieve outcomes.

Work is also underway to develop tailored pathways for specific needs, including for people with a psychosocial disability. The NDIA will continue to engage with stakeholders to understand how the NDIS can best work for people with a psychosocial disability.

The pathways will be piloted and tested over the coming months before being rolled out nationally.

Looking ahead to the next 12 months and the continued rollout of the Scheme, the challenges can appear daunting—but the opportunities and the benefits of the NDIS outweigh the challenges many times over.

We must remember this is just the first step. We all have a role to play in the NDIS journey.

I would like to finish today by sharing with you a story that shows how the NDIS is making a difference to the lives of those living with psychosocial disability.

With help through the NDIS, Stewart, who has bipolar disorder, was able to move out of a hostel and into his own home. He now has support that helps him in practical ways, like getting into a routine for paying bills and buying groceries, and receiving assistance attending appointments.

I am committed to supporting an NDIS that empowers people with disability to achieve their goals in inclusive communities and workplaces, and I hope that you will join me in ensuring that this life-changing reform is a success.

Thank you.