Mental Health Community Coalition ACT head, Ian Rentsch. Photo: Elesa Lee
Hundreds of mentally ill Canberrans may struggle to access their entitlements under the National Disability Insurance Scheme, advocates say.
Already operating in Geelong, the Hunter Valley and elsewhere, the NDIS is due to be rolled out in Canberra on 1 July.
Mental Health Community Coalition ACT head Ian Rentsch said to get an individualised package of support under the NDIS, a person's disability must be defined as ''severe and enduring''.
He said it was still unclear how that rule affected the eligibility of people whose mental illness, while severe, may be episodic.
Mr Rentsch said he would like to see the rules on eligibility clarified by July 1, to provide certainty to those working in the sector and to ensure Canberra clients in need of support did not miss out.
He said around Australia about 35,000 people living with mental illness may not be eligible for an individualised support package and hundreds of those were likely to be in the ACT.
Last week, the National Disability Insurance Agency announced it had appointed former WA mental health commissioner Eddie Bartnik to the position of strategic adviser on mental health.
His appointment was welcomed by the Mental Health Council of Australia.
NDIA head Bruce Bonyhady denied mentally ill people had found it difficult to access the scheme at the first implementation sites.
But he said the issue was complex and the NDIA would work to improve the language used by the scheme, which was at odds with that used by the mental health sector.
''The language of permanent disability, and recovery, which is the emphasis in mental health programs, needs to be worked through in a way that does not disadvantage people with a psychosocial disability that need to access the scheme,'' he said.
Mr Bonyhady said the NDIA had to clarify for mentally ill people and their advocates the boundaries of what was provided by the health system and what the NDIS offered.
He said he also wanted to make sure mentally ill consumers who needed support in coming to the NDIS to access entitlements received it.
Mr Bonyhady said the scheme also needed to ensure mentally ill people who did not qualify for an individualised package of support, but needed access to community services, were able to get that.
He said the NDIA was continually working to improve its services and one of the key underlying principles of the scheme was equity, which meant all people with severe and permanent disabilities under the age of 65 would be eligible.
''It should not matter if the type of disability is intellectual, physical or psychosocial or behavioural, it's your need that will determine whether or not you're eligible,'' Mr Bonyhady said.
Mr Rentsch said while Mr Bartnik's appointment indicated the NDIA was taking the issues around accessibility for the mentally ill seriously, there would still be challenges to face.