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Save community mental health services. . .

Save community mental health services

By Brooke McKail.
Published on the VCOSS Voice on 27 February 2018.

Bartosz Brzezinski_Flickr

A huge gap is looming for people who need mental health support in Victoria. For some, the support they need will no longer be available. This places their recovery at risk, and means they may fall into a crisis that could have been avoided.

Community-based rehabilitation is a pillar of a balanced mental health system, alongside clinical treatment and disability support. These services help people stay healthy, commit to a job or education, care for their children and families, and fully participate in community life.

However, neither the NDIS nor the Victorian Government has committed to providing it into the future.

Victoria has redirected all its community-based mental health service funding to the NDIS; the only state in Australia to have done so. In contrast, NSW recently increased its investment in community-based mental health.

Meanwhile, rehabilitation is deemed outside the scope of the NDIS. This means the NDIS will not fill the rehabilitation gap for people with mental illness, and that in Victoria we are at risk of sending people deeper into mental health crisis. This is not a good outcome for people with mental health issues, their families, schools, workplaces, or the community at large.

This means the NDIS will not fill the rehabilitation gap for people with mental illness, and that in Victoria we are at risk of sending people deeper into mental health crisis.


Already the NDIS is not meeting people’s mental health support needs. Only 81% of those who requested NDIS support for ‘psychosocial disability’ have been accepted into the scheme, compared with much higher rates (more than 97%) for people with cerebral palsy, autism or intellectual disability. The latest figures show just 7% of NDIS participants across Australia have a ‘primary psychosocial disability’, about half the number expected.

Similarly, 800 people in the federally funded Personal Helpers and Mentors program were expected to move to the NDIS last financial year. But almost three-quarters did not end up with NDIS funding. Senate Estimates show about 231 were deemed ineligible for the scheme, owing to their age, residency, or because they did not meet disability requirements. A further 158 withdrew their access requests, while 162 declined to move to the NDIS and 35 did not return their access request form.

The 2018-19 Victorian Budget must save Victoria’s mental health rehabilitation services. The state’s community mental health sector is calling for about $50 million each year to fund its rehabilitation services. 

Funding community mental health services will help these services continue to support people living with mental illness who are ineligible, or choose not to access, the NDIS. The Victorian Government has a responsibility to continue funding community mental health services outside of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). It must act to plug this looming and serious gap in mental health rehabilitation funding and build a better Victoria.

State Budget Submission - read more

Feature image: Bartosz Brzezinski/CC

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