Independent Mental Health Advocacy

What is the NDIS?

If you are thinking about applying for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) you can learn more about the eligibility criteria, psychosocial disability, and what the NDIS can do for you.

In this section we will explore what the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is, it’s eligibility criteria, mental health and psychosocial disability.

  • The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provides support to people with disability, their families, and carers. The Australian and participating state and territory governments govern and fund the NDIS. The NDIS is an insurance scheme that 'invests' in your life in the hope of minimising need for long-term services. Participation is voluntary.

    Here are some common questions people have about the NDIS.

    Will it affect my pension?

    No, it is not a pension or a welfare payment. It will not affect your pension if you get one, although your transport allowance will be removed. It does not replace services and support you receive from other service areas such as medical, schools, or community groups.

    Who decides if I can access the NDIS?

    The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is the decision-maker. The NDIA is an independent statutory agency. The NDIA implements the NDIS in every state and territory.

    What happens if I'm accepted?

    You will receive an individual support plan package (NDIS plan) that links to your goals. You will help decide what is needed to achieve your goals. Your NDIS plan will be developed with you. Your first plan will likely run for 12–24 months. At the end of your first plan, it will be reassessed to see if it still meets your support needs. In some circumstances, you can ask for your plan to be changed without having to undergo a reassessment. For more information, please see the I disagree with an NDIA decision section of this toolkit.

    Will I have to keep applying?

    If accepted, it is likely to be ongoing. It is unlikely you will need to apply again if you remain living in Australia. When you turn 65 years old you will be given the choice of staying on the NDIS or transferring to the My Aged Care scheme. The NDIA can cancel your access to the NDIS if they think you no longer fit the disability requirements.

    The Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council websiteExternal Link has more information about the NDIS.

  • To be eligible for the NDIS you must meet their access requirements. You will need to provide evidence when you make a request for access.

    The NDIS eligibility requirements are that you:

    • need to be under the age of 65 years old
    • need to be an Australian citizen, hold a visa to live in Australia permanently, or be a New Zealand citizen with a Protected Special Category Visa (SCV)
    • must have a permanent and significant disability.

    You can find examples of the types of evidence you will need to provide in the Applying for the NDIS section of this toolkit.

    What does permanent and significant mean?

    The NDIA use their own language to describe things. Let's look at what this means for psychosocial disability.

    By permanent, they mean that there is no 'remedy' or 'cure' for your mental health issue.

    By significant, they mean that your mental health issue affects your ability to function on a daily basis.

    The NDIA knows that you mental health issue can happen suddenly, or change over time.

    The NDIA says that:

    • you must have one or more impairments that are attributable to a psychosocial disability
    • your psychosocial disability must result in a substantially reduced functional capacity
    • your functional capacity is substantially reduced when undertaking day-to-day activities.

    It can feel like the NDIS access requirements focus on what you can't do. If your application is successful, you can use your plan to focus on your recovery.

    For more information about eligibility you can refer to the NDIS websiteExternal Link for their eligibility checklist.

  • It is important to look beyond the language and the labels the NDIS and mental health system use, and focus on what they mean.

    Psychosocialmeans the combination of psychological and social behaviours.

    Disability means limitations or restrictions on your activities.

    Put together, this means the NDIA are referring to the impact your mental health issue has on your daily life.

    For example, someone who experiences severe anxiety may not be able to be in busy environments. This could limit their ability to access the community because they can't travel on public transport.

    '"Psychosocial" and "disability" were the two words that made me realise I had the option of applying for the NDIS.'

    Stigma and psychosocial disability

    Many people who experience psychosocial disability are not aware they can access supports through the NDIS. This is because psychosocial disability is often considered to be a ‘hidden’ disability. This means that your disability might not be obvious. To other people, it can look as if everything is okay. They don't see the thoughts racing through your mind or the confusion you experience. They don't see that it might have taken two weeks of self-talk just to make a phone call. Sometimes these experiences become so normal to us that we don't even realise the limitations they place on our activities.

    Your cultural background and identity may also have an impact on the way you think about psychosocial disability. In some cultures, mental health is stigmatised and this might make it more challenging to access the support you need.

    It's important to know that psychosocial disability can result in the same level of functional impact as a physical disability.

  • Some people do not identify with the diagnosis or labels given to them. There are many reasons for this. For example, they could be based on a way of looking at things, or thinking about things, that we don't relate to or agree with.

    You may feel conflicted about engaging with the NDIS because the language and terminology they use isn't how you see yourself. It can help to be practical and think of what the NDIS can provide and how that will help you achieve the goals you set in your NDIS plan.

    You can refer to the My identity and keeping myself safe section of this toolkit to help with this. You do not have to identify with the labels used by the NDIS, but using their language will help you to access the supports you want or need.

    It is your choice whether to apply for the NDIS or not. It might be useful to think about the positives and negatives of accessing the NDIS. How could you make the NDIS work for you? Answering the questions in the Worksheet – What is the NDIS? could help you with this decision.

  • The NDIS can provide you support to help you live well. It is one of many tools you can use as part of your recovery journey.

    If you are eligible, the NDIS can fund supports to increase participation in your community. This can include:

    • education
    • employment
    • social participation
    • independence
    • living arrangements
    • health and wellbeing.

    What will the NDIS fund?

    The NDIS will only fund a support or service if they consider it reasonable and necessary, which means it:

    • must be related to your disability
    • must not include day-to-day living costs not related to your disability support needs, such as groceries
    • should represent value for money
    • must be likely to be effective and work for you
    • should take into account support given to you by other government services, your family, carers, networks and the community.

    What are some examples?

    Each person will need different support from the NDIS. All your supports will need to be linked to your goals and expressed in a way that links to the challenges you may experience in everyday life. This is so the NDIS can understand your needs. To learn more about goals see the Setting my goals section of this toolkit. The following examples may or may not be approved:

    • Help with planning or decision making and household tasks.
    • Support to reconnect with family or friends you've lost touch with.
    • Transport help to medical or social activities. For example, to music or sporting events.
    • A companion to assist with grocery shopping.
    • Help to build capacity in maintaining a budget or managing your tenancy.
    • Support to maintain relationships that are important to you.
    • Camps and group activities, to reduce social isolation.
    • Therapy such as occupational therapy, or psychology.
    • In-home cleaning or support with gardening.
    • Meal preparation or support with laundry.

    These supports could make it easier to find balance with family and friends who might be helping you.

  • You may already be receiving support through mainstream mental health services. This doesn't mean that you can't also receive support through the NDIS.

    The NDIS can help you to:

    • pursue your goals, objectives and aspirations
    • increase your independence
    • have support that meets your cultural and family support preferences
    • increase community and workplace participation
    • reduce stress in family life, friendships, or work relationships
    • develop your capacity to actively take part in the community.

My rights

  • One of the aims of the NDIS ActExternal Link is to help achieve Australia's responsibilities under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesExternal Link (UNCRPD).

    The UNCRPD is a piece of international law that sets out the rights of people with a disability. This includes people with a psychosocial disability. It states that people with a disability should be able to make decisions about their lives and be active members of society.

    The general principles of The NDIS Act reflect that people with disability:

    • have the same right as others to achieve their potential for physical, social, emotional and intellectual development
    • should be supported to participate in and contribute to social and economic life to the extent of their ability
    • will receive the care and support they need over their lifetime.
  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with a DisabilityExternal Link (UNCRPD) says that support must be provided to assist people to make their own decisions. This is known as supported decision-making – having the support if you need it to make your own decisions.

    The underpinning principles of supported decisions are that:

    • everyone has the right to make decisions about the things that affect them
    • every effort should be made to support people to make their own decisions
    • people have the right to learn from experience
    • people have the right to change their mind
    • people have the right to make decisions others might not agree with.

    For more information, the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC), Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA), and the Centre for Psychiatric Nursing (CPN) have developed a supported decision-making fact sheetExternal Link .

    You can refer to the Who will support me? section of this toolkit for help.

  • It is your choice whether you apply for and engage with the NDIS or not. You can take your time to make these decisions.

Worksheet - What is the NDIS?

Our worksheet helps you think out how you have dealt with change in the past to help you face the challenge of applying for the NDIS.

Complete the worksheet

Other resources

Reviewed 23 November 2022

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