Nearly 60,000 people with a severe mental illness will share an extra $1.3 billion in funding — the single biggest boost under the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The states and the commonwealth currently spend $450 million a year on community mental health services.
When the NDIS becomes fully operational in July 2016 that will increase to $1.8 billion a year, News Corp Australia can reveal. And hundreds of thousands of people suffering less severe mental problems who currently access government-funded services but don’t qualify for the NDIS are being assured their help will continue. Concern has been mounting about how the NDIS would cover people with a mental illness and whether those with less severe problems would continue to get support outside the NDIS. Assistant Minister for Social Services, Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield, has provided new funding and a series of guarantees on mental health just weeks before 200,000 mentally ill Australians were set to lose $250 million in funding for services that help them live in the community. Up to 4000 mental health workers were at risk of losing their jobs if the funding dried up on June 30, 12 months before the NDIS will be fully rolled out. The developments come as the government is under pressure from peak mental health groups to make public the National Mental Health Commission’s review of mental health services which was handed to the government in December.Minister Fifield will announce on Monday that the government will extend funding for the Personal Helpers Mentors Program (PHaMs) and the Mental Health Respite: Carer Support program Mentors program until 30 June 2016. The funding extension will ensure supports are maintained as the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme continues across the country, Mr Fifield said. “The Australian Government is committed to supporting people who are severely impacted by mental illness, as well as those who care for them,” Minister Fifield said. “The extension of these contracts will ensure people living with mental illness and those who care for them can still access these support services.” However, he says the funding arrangements for providers who deliver services under the PHaMs scheme will change as they prepare to operate in an open market under the NDIS. Mental Health Australia chief Frank Quinlan welcomed the funding certainty. “We really look forward to co-designing what mental health services will look like under the NDIS,” he said. “We will be working to ensure people who get services now will continue to get them into the future. We need to intervene early because it saves money in the long term,” he said.
This article first appeared Daily Telegraph, 16 February 2015.