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Speaking frankly...                                       

PC makes recommendations to address NDIS woes

I was very pleased to see the Productivity Commission release its position paper on NDIS Costs this week.

The Overview document and the full position paper (377 pages) are available here.

For a long time now we have been talking about the risk of the NDIS becoming an oasis in the middle of a desert, and it appears our analogy has been acknowledged and heard. 

Over the next few weeks we will take the time to fully digest the paper, its recommendations and the implications for the mental health sector and for people living with mental health issues, however we are very pleased to see some of our key concerns being addressed in the Overview document.

For instance the Commission noted:

Most critically, it is important that people with disability do not see the NDIS as an oasis of support, surrounded by a desert, where little or nothing is available. Should such a dynamic develop, the financial pressures on the NDIS could be unsustainable, particularly if people feel the need to test their ability to qualify for the scheme, or remain in the scheme for as long as possible, for fear of not gaining access again should the need arise.

The Commission goes on to acknowledge our concerns regarding overall numbers:

Mental health services are an area of particular concern. The National Mental Health Commission’s report on Mental Health Programs and Services estimated that about 700 000 Australians experience a severe mental illness in any one year. However, according to the NDIA, only around 64 000 people with psychosocial disability are expected to be eligible for individual packages in the NDIS. 

Importantly, the Commission recognizes that the problems do not all reside with the NDIS. Many of the issues that need to be addressed relate to the responsibility of governments to continue to provide services outside the NDIS.

Clearly, there needs to be support for people with mental health illnesses outside of the scheme — a responsibility that remains (largely) with State and Territory Governments. However, governments have been withdrawing their funding for a number of mental health support programs in their jurisdictions and using this funding to offset part of their contribution to the NDIS. At this stage, it is unclear what supports will be available for people with a mental illness who do not meet the NDIS eligibility criteria and this should be clarified as a matter of urgency. 

The Commission notes the tremendous uncertainty that arises because these issues have not been addressed, and the impact that this uncertainty can have on those living with mental health issues, and trying to make decisions about how best to manage them…

The implications of this are significant. Not only is this uncertainty distressing for those with mental illness, any gap in support would place an additional call on the generosity of informal support. Gaps could place another pressure on the financial sustainability of the NDIS should it encourage scope creep, or force those who are unlikely to meet the eligibility criteria to test their access for fear of having few supports should they not qualify for the scheme. Mental health and psychosocial disability have been made a key priority of the DRC, but more clarity is required. 

All of this points to the urgent need for governments to sit down and agree on who is responsible for what, and to articulate how services will be made available for those who will remain outside the scheme.

While the Australian and State and Territory Governments have agreed to provide continuity of support for disability services outside the NDIS, in practice there is confusion and uncertainty about what services will continue to be provided and/or funded. Governments need to be clearer about how they will approach continuity of care, and in particular about what disability services they will continue to provide for people who are not eligible for the NDIS.

The Commission has made some very important practical suggestions:

  • Governments should immediately disclose their estimates of in scope and out of scope populations in a manner that is transparent and accountable – both pre scheme and post scheme estimates.
  • The NDIA should employ specialist planners, with mental health qualifications, in order to develop plans for people living with psychosocial disability.
  • Consideration should be given to the establishment of a specific psychosocial disability gateway within the NDIS.
  • The NDIA should move towards an Independent Pricing Authority, in order to ensure pricing adequately covers the service responses required, and promotes the long term sustainability of both service providers and the NDIS.

It is a draft report, and the Productivity Commission has invited submissions. Let's hope the ongoing drafting process does not slow down the urgent implementation of some of the remedies suggested.

Submissions in response to the Position Paper are due by 12 July 2017.

Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer

Congratulations to recipients in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List

I would like to recognise and congratulate the following Australians who have been named in this year's Queens Birthday Honours List and received awards and appointments in relation to their contributions to our community in areas including mental health.

Officer (AO) in the general division

Helen Edith Herrman (VIC) - For distinguished service to medicine, and to mental health, as a leading clinician, researcher and scientist, to national and international professional organisations, and through programs to support youth and women.

Members (AM) in the General Division

Leanne Winifred Craze (NSW) - For significant service to the community as an advocate for the rights of people living with mental illness.

Ray Ian Marshman (VIC) - For significant service to education, particularly to dentistry, and to the community through youth mental health and emergency service groups.

Neil Robert Rees (QLD) - For significant service to the law and to education as an academic, to legal reform, and to mental health and professional organisations.

Karyn Joan Walsh (QLD) - For significant service to the community through social welfare initiatives, to support for people who are homeless, to children, and to mental health. 

Public Service Medal

Prudence Mary Stone (WA) - For outstanding public service in the area of mental health services in Western Australia.

Full details of the contributions made (which are so extensive I can't include them here!) can be found on the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia's website.

It's wonderful to see these people being recognised for their outstanding contributions which have made and will continue to make a positive difference to the lives of many.

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Next Week

On Tuesday I will be in Melbourne for a number of meetings with sector organisations and the Victorian Government.

Then on Friday, I'll return to Melbourne again for the first meeting of the Primary Health Network Advisory Panel. 


Meet a Mental Health Australia Member

Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia

The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia is a leading national peak body and professional association for counsellors and psychotherapists in Australia. Our mission is to represent the profession to communities and government, and to develop the evidence-base for counselling and psychotherapy.

PACFA promotes the development and practice of counselling and psychotherapy and respects and supports the diversity of approaches within the field. We provide a united forum for practitioners and for counselling and psychotherapy associations, to foster professional identity, support training and research, and ensure public accountability.

Victorian Branch Network and Social Evening on June 29

PACFA is pleased to announce the next Victorian Branch Network and Social Evening will be held on 29 June at the offices in Fitzroy North.

Participants will be discussing the opportunity to move to a more central venue, as well as the usual networking and peer discussion. It will be a great opportunity to:
- Chat with professional colleagues over a coffee
- Share your ideas for creating a strong PACFA Victorian Branch
- Strengthen our sense of connection as a professional community
- Engage in potential case presentation or a presentation on a specific therapeutic modality in relation to the theme.

Please email to RSVP to the June event. See the full event details here.

Web -
Facebook - and Counselling Federation of Australia

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Become a Member of Mental Health Australia

As the peak body for the mental health sector in Australia, Mental Health Australia is uniquely placed to influence the national debate on mental health issues and achieve our vision of mentally healthy people and communities. Representing more than 100 organisations in the mental health sector, find out more about Membership at the link below.

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Parliamentary News

$73 Million to support the mental health of Australian children (Fed)

The Turnbull Government will invest $73 million in two new mental health programs to ensure Australian children and young people receive the support they need during their school years. Under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program, training and resources on mental health issues will be provided to people who regularly interact with pre-schoolers, primary and high school aged children. This includes teachers, school communities, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. 

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New strategy to recognise and support Canberra’s carers (ACT)

Rachel Stephen-Smith, MLA says a partnership between the ACT Government, Carers ACT and democracy Co will develop a new ACT Carers Strategy - delivering on a key election commitment for the community sector. Every day, almost 50,000 ACT carers provide vital support to people with a disability or who experience mental illness or have a chronic health condition. In last week's Budget, the ACT Government delivered on its commitment to recognise the valuable contribution carers make to the ACT community by providing $200,000 to develop and implement the ACT Carers Strategy.

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$14.7 million for new specialist older persons’ mental health facility and model of care (SA)

SA Minister for Mental Health, Leesa Vlahos, says the State Government is providing $14.7 million for the construction of a new older persons' mental health facility for older South Australian with severe dementia and mental health issues. The funding includes $1 million to support the development of a specialised contemporary model of care and longer term service planning. This process will include a scoping study to determine the site, design and other details of the build.

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Online Lived Experience Forum – Is mental health more challenging for men?

Join the next SANE online forum on 20 June, from 7-9pm AEST, where the topic 'Is mental health more challenging for men?' will be discussed.

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Calling for help to recruit people for important research to inform updated guidelines for depression

Mental Health First Aid Australia and the University of Melbourne are conducting research to update the mental health first aid guidelines for depression. The original mental health first aid guidelines for depression can be found here.

They are recruiting people with a lived experience of depression, carers/those who provide significant support to someone with depression and mental health professionals. The specific selection criteria can be found in this flyer. Please feel free to pass the flyer on to anyone you think might be interested in being a part of this research.

Interested people can contact Dr Kathy Bond

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Launch of the 2017 International Mental Health Conference Program

The 2017 International Mental Health Conference Program has now been launched and can be found here, with over 90 presenters confirmed on the program. Now into its eighteenth year, this reputable Conference is the must attend event on the mental health calendar, facilitating professional development and the exchange of current ideas and practices between mental health practitioners from Australia, New Zealand and further afield. 

Early bird registrations close soon - register here.

The Conference Committee welcome Mind Australia as the Gold Sponsor for 2017. 

If you are interested in promoting your product or service to the 400+ delegates expected to attend, please contact the Partnerships Manager, Bec Byrnes for more information:

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Call for participants in University of Western Australia research study

Today, many young people are diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Honours student Megan Ansell wants to know how this impacts them as they develop their self-identity. If you are 15-21 years, and have a mental health disorder, please consider completing this anonymous 15 minute survey here

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