Mental health service changes

How mental health service gaps left by the National Disability Insurance Scheme will be filled is unclear, says Anglicare Tasmania.

Anglicare Tasmania facilitates the Personal Helpers and Mentors services program in the South, while Mission Australia services the North and North-West. Ninety clients exited from Mission Australia’s PHaMs in Tasmania in December, and about 60 per cent are not eligible for NDIS. 

PHaMs provides support for people who may be struggling with functioning in the community. 

The NDIS is absorbing four Commonwealth-funded programs,  including PHaMs. People must have a severe or permanent mental illness, or a psychosocial disability, to qualify for the NDIS. 

The Mental Health Council of Tasmania collated its concerns in a submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry into the NDIS.

“Our recent discussions with Tasmanian providers of Commonwealth funded programs has resulted in general agreement that around 30% of all Commonwealth program participants will be ineligible for the NDIS,” the submission said. 

Anglicare Tasmania deputy chief executive Daryl Lamb said although continuity of support funding was provided in the intermediary, Anglicare Tasmania would not have the resources to meet demand as the NDIS roll-out continued. 

"If somebody had severe anxiety for example, that wouldn't qualify them for the NDIS,” Mr Lamb said. 

"Typically, in our service, people come to us when their mental health issue is causing difficulties for them in overcoming a whole range of challenges, but quite commonly being able to move freely around the community, say with something like anxiety,” he said. 

 “Our workers ... assist the people really through the relationship and conversations to develop strategies to overcome the barriers that they're facing in participating in society."

A federal Social Services Department spokeswoman last week said “funding for PHaMs is gradually reducing over a number of years”.

“Program providers and the NDIA are working closely to help people through the transition … clients under PHaMs have been joining the NDIS gradually since trial phase, and that will accelerate as the transition to full scheme continues,” she said. 

She said continuity of support was provided and longer terms supports were being developed. Health Minister Michael Ferguson said the state government was working with the MHCT to ensure all Tasmanians get the help they require.