Media statement 7 April 2017

Media release
7 April 2017

The criticality of advocacy-support to the human rights of many people entering the NDIS has today been raised by the Queensland Public Guardian, Natalie Siegel-Brown.

“People whose capacity to make decisions for themselves fluctuates, or is somehow impaired, need their own advocates to ensure they don’t end up with less services or the wrong type of services.

“Advocacy agencies play a critical role throughout the whole NDIS process for people with psychosocial disabilities,” Mrs Siegel-Brown said.

As part of the implementation of the NDIS, there has been a notable increase in applications for guardianship. A significant number of adults in this group have a psychosocial disability, many of whom also have a dual diagnosis of intellectual or cognitive disability.

In its submission to the Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS inquiry into the “provision of services under the NDIS for people with psychosocial disabilities related to a mental health condition”, published today, the concerns of the Office of the Public Guardian in the rollout of the NDIS in Queensland for people with psychosocial disabilities were identified.

“People with psychosocial disabilities should have access to support that enables meaningful engagement with the NDIS, and can assist them to overcome barriers navigating the system,” Mrs Siegel-Brown said.

“One of the challenges the OPG has faced in the rollout of the NDIS is the lack of available and funded advocacy organisations, particularly those that are culturally specific such as those for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients.”

This has led to significant waiting times on advocacy services, and risks a person being subjected to a more restrictive decision-making regime such as guardianship, in lieu of available advocacy support.

The irony is that in order to engage with the NDIS which is centred upon choice and control, adults with psychosocial disability may have a guardian appointed on their behalf specifically for the purpose of being able to enter into the NDIS.

It is therefore crucial that advocacy agencies are funded not only for ‘participant readiness’, but to support the person through the entire NDIS process.

The Public Guardian also highlighted concerns regarding the inconsistency of outcomes from the NDIS Planning process for people with psychosocial disabilities.

“We’ve seen a client in a voluntary mental health rehabilitation unit receiving $100,000 and 104 hours of support through the NDIS, but then another client released from prison under an involuntary mental health treatment order received only $3,000 and 104 hours of support,”

“It’s important to note that both of these clients have similar psychosocial disabilities and support needs, yet the disparity between their outcomes is astonishing,” Mrs Siegel-Brown said.

The Office of the Public Guardian attributes some of these inconsistencies to the knowledge and skill of the National Disability Insurance Agency planner, and the location of the client at the time of the meeting.

“In instances where an advocate was available to support and assist the person with a disability to engage with the NDIA, planners have been able to better understand the client’s needs and negotiate appropriate outcomes that have a huge benefit to the client’s quality of care.”

“It is vital that people with psychosocial disabilities have access to advocacy agencies and are also made aware of their right to use advocates as critical support measures throughout the NDIS process.”

Other recommendations made by the Office of the Public Guardian include:

  • More flexible approaches to eligibility assessments for clients with psychosocial disability
  • Consistent practice in planning and clear eligibility criteria designed to meet the needs of persons with psychosocial disability
  • Acceptance of current medical reports and findings from state or territory tribunals of impairment of capacity due to psychosocial disability
  • Not requiring additional expensive psychiatric or other medical assessments to prove eligibility where other evidence is provided
  • NDIS planning should allow for continuity of services and forward planning based on foreseeable changes of circumstances.
  • NDIA should allow for more flexible planning for persons with psychosocial disability by:
    • Supporting these people to attend planning meetings face to face with adequate support
    • Accommodating individual differences and recognising the fluid nature of psychosocial disability
    • Providing consistent funding as these people transition in and out of mental health facilities
    • Ensuring these people have adequate support coordination (funding) to assist with discharge planning
    • Supporting planners to take a more holistic view during the planning process by engaging more closely and developing a deeper understanding of each person.

A copy of the submission can be viewed on the OPG website.


Office of the Public Guardian media contact: (07) 3006 2589 or