Independent Mental Health Advocacy

Applying for the NDIS

If you've decided to apply for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), you can use this information to help you gather supporting documentation.

If you've decided you'd like the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to be part of your life, you can proceed to applying. This process can be complicated. The information on this page will help you to move through this stage.

  • Everyone who applies for the NDIS must meet eligibility criteria. These include age, residency and disability requirements. To find out more about the eligibility criteria, visit the What is the NDIS? section of this toolkit.

    Access request form

    To apply for the NDIS, you will need to complete the access request form, or verbally request access to the NDIS. To do this you can:

    What do I put on the Access Request Form?

    You will need to provide your:

    • full name
    • date of birth
    • gender
    • country of birth
    • citizenship
    • residence
    • contact details
    • parent, legal guardian, or nominee representative details (if applicable)
    • carers and family members details if applicable
    • information about your disability.

    If you are currently homeless, you can ask a community organisation to use their postal address on the form.

    You will also need to give the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) permission to collect your personal information. This can be from other people or organisations, including Centrelink if applicable.

    You will need to provide evidence about your disability with your Access Request Form. This can take some time.

  • In Victoria there are mental health community organisations that can help you to access the NDIS. If you are in another state, you can do an internet search to find organisations that could help you apply.

    Some organisations you can contact in Victoria are:

    You could ask for help from the people in your life. You can use the Who will support me? section of this toolkit to help you decide who could support you.

    What if I need help with communication?

    If you need help with English, call the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 131 450.

    If you have need assistance with hearing or speech, you can:

  • Functional capacity means how your mental health affects your life on a daily basis. You need to prove this to the NDIS to gain access and identify what support you need.

    To do this, spend time thinking about how your mental health impacts your life. You can talk to people you trust to see what they notice. This could be family members, people that support you, or friends. You could keep a diary. Each day, note what activities you do, what you find difficult, and what support you get. It's important to think about how they are related to your mental health issue.

    'Because the mental health system is so much focused on health and not disability, until I got an occupational therapy report, I didn't realise what my functional capacity was compared to "normal"'

    What are the NDIS Activity Domains?

    The NDIS uses the term 'Activity Domains' to refer to areas of your life where you experience difficulty with activities. To gain access or supports under the NDIS, you must link your functional capacity to the NDIS Activity Domains. This table shows examples for each of them.

    NDIS Activity Domains Impact of mental health issue Support needed
    Mobility The side effects of your mental health treatment mean you have difficulty preparing meals. You need equipment to assist with meal preparation.
    Communication You have difficulty interpreting communication. You need support to assist with interactions with other people.
    Social interaction You experience social avoidance and difficulty accessing the community. You need support to overcome social anxiety, such as a psychologist.
    Self-management You have difficulty with stressful situations like managing money. You need support with managing your finances.
    Self-care You have impaired concentration for tasks like shopping or cooking. You need support to assist you with tasks like shopping or cooking.
    Learning You have difficulty understanding and remembering information. You need equipment that helps you to record and organise information.

    You can answer the questions in the Worksheet - Applying for the NDIS to understand how your psychosocial disability impacts your life.

  • The supporting evidence you provide must address the eligibility criteria. You will have to prove that your mental health issue:

    • has caused difficulties in your everyday life
    • will mean you need support permanently
    • has substantially reduced your ability to do everyday activities.

    To do this you will need to provide information about:

    • diagnosis or diagnoses
    • medication you are currently taking
    • therapies you are currently engaging in
    • any medication or therapies you have tried in the past.

    The NDIS will look at medication or therapy that is appropriate or clinically indicated for your mental health issue. This means that if there's something you haven't tried, the NDIS will want to know why. For example, it may not be appropriate for your particular mental health issue.

    How do I ask for supporting evidence?

    You can make an appointment with your clinician so that they can provide supporting evidence. When preparing for your appointment, you can use the IMHA self-advocacy modelExternal Link to help you let people know what it is you want. You can book in longer appointments so you have enough time. When attending your appointment inform your clinician what they need to include in your supporting evidence.

    There are many ways to provide supporting evidence. You can submit the NDIS Evidence of Psychosocial Disability formExternal Link as evidence. This form has two sections. Your most appropriate clinician must complete one section. A support worker or someone who knows you well completes the other section. This form makes it easier for people with a psychosocial disability and supporters to collect evidence.

    What are some examples of supporting evidence?

    Think about getting supporting evidence from an occupational therapist. They write their assessments in a way that the NDIA like. You can ask your doctor about getting a chronic disease management plan. This may cover the cost of an occupational therapist appointment.

    Before submitting your supporting evidence

    • Check it for recovery language. The NDIA focuses on what you struggle to do or need support to do
    • Be aware that the NDIS doesn't recognise substance use as a mental health issue and therefore this doesn't meet the criteria for the NDIS. Instead gather evidence to show that the support you need is because of your mental health issue. A neuropsychiatrist or neuropsychologist can do this.
    • If using old reports make sure they make your application stronger

    When submitting your supporting evidence make sure you keep your own copies.

  • You may have come across the phrase 'nothing about us, without us'. Many people feel uncomfortable when someone writes about them without their own input. So, it is important to think about how the documentation you give the NDIS reflects your voice.

    To co-create means to create something by working with one or more people. This could be a GP, psychologist, social worker, friend, carer, family member, kin, or other supports. It is important to understand that the person writing the documentation may not be prepared to change what they’ve written. In this case, ask if you can have something you’ve written included.

    Benefits of co-creating documentation

    The concept of co-creating documentation is very new. This means your clinician or support person might not be familiar with it. You could talk over this list of benefits with them to help them understand. Co-creating documentation can help you to:

    • feel empowered
    • build a stronger relationship with the clinician or support person
    • increase the accuracy of your documentation
    • identify what is working for you and what is missing from your support.

    Challenges of co-creating documentation

    Creating documentation in partnership can be difficult. Some challenges are:

    • unfamiliar professional terms, abbreviations, or language
    • reading sensitive information
    • mistakes, errors, or missing information
    • too much or too little detail
    • differences of opinion about diagnoses or treatment
    • reading surprising, confusing, or upsetting information.

    You can refer to the My identity and keeping myself safe section of this toolkit for support with these challenges.

    Tips for co-creating documentation

    Before self-advocating to co-create documentation, think about what is important to you and what needs to be in the documentation to meet the NDIS access requirements.

    It is important to think carefully about the information you share with the NDIS. There may be some things that you don’t feel comfortable sharing. To help you decide, you can ask yourself if the information is relevant to your application. Also, does it strengthen your application. Answering these questions can help you decide whether you will share the information or not.

    You can use the Worksheet - Applying for the NDIS to help you with this.

  • Applying for the NDIS can have an emotional impact on you.

    The NDIS access process focuses on the functional impact of your psychosocial disability. This means it looks at what your disability prevents you from doing. When you see information presented in this way, it can have an emotional impact on you because it can make you feel disempowered.

    Mental health documentation usually focuses on recovery and what your strengths are. When applying for the NDIS, these two ways of looking at your disability are in conflict.

    Sometimes reading information about yourself can bring up past trauma and emotions. When collecting evidence, keep in mind that you can:

    • give yourself as much time as you need
    • let people who support you know that this might be a difficult time for you
    • put things in place that will provide you with support.

    Emotional barriers

    Many people experience emotional barriers when applying for the NDIS. It can be useful to know that you are not alone in how you are feeling.

    The Victorian Mental Illness Awareness CouncilExternal Link (VMIAC) has identified some of these barriers:

    • Anxiety and fearfulness of rejection and of losing support you've had in the past.
    • Frustration and anger about having to go through a lengthy process to get support.
    • Shame and self-criticism associated with your mental health issue increase.
    • Despair and hopelessness associated with your experiences in the past.
    • Feeling overwhelmed by the many steps involved in applying for the NDIS.

    All these feelings are valid and it is important to take time to acknowledge them. It may be helpful to know that once accepted onto the NDIS, it is likely to be for life. Even though the access process is challenging, it only needs to happen once. Reminding yourself that once on the NDIS you can focus on your recovery can help to overcome these feelings.

My rights

  • You have the right to ask for support to apply for the NDIS. Find out more about how to get help applyingExternal Link .

  • The NDIS is a voluntary scheme. You have the right to choose which supporting evidence you use to support your application.

Worksheet - Applying for the NDIS

Our worksheet helps you to advocate for the supporting documentation you to need to apply for the NDIS.

Complete the worksheet

Other resources

Reviewed 23 November 2022

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