Thanks for joining us in our Embark blogpost series, where we share some of our tips for supporting people to access the NDIS. Embark provides support to people with disability living in the Sydney Metropolitan area that are living with a mental health condition and experiencing (or at risk of) homelessness, to access the NDIS. [You can make a referral to our free service via:]

You can also get in touch for support – via Embark Upskill, we facilitate free workshops across NSW, open to anyone who wants to improve their confidence and understanding of the NDIS in order to support people with a mental illness to access the NDIS and obtain the supports they need. [Make an enquiry via:] 

While it is essential for individuals with psychosocial disabilities to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and receive the support they need, the process of writing their own application and outlining their functional impairments can sometimes (and understandably) be a deterrent. When the NDIS consider psychosocial disability, they think about whether any reduction or loss in your ability to do things, across all life domains, is because of an impairment relating to the psychosocial disability. When the NDIS think of disability and functional impairments –  they think about whether any reduction or loss in ability to do things, across all life domains, is because of an impairment. An impairment defined by the NDIS is a loss or significant change in at least one of:

your body’s functions

your body structure

how you think and learn.

To meet the disability requirements, the NDIS need the evidence that your disability is caused by at least one of the impairments below 

intellectual – such as how you speak and listen, read and write, solve problems, and process and remember information

cognitive – such as how you think, learn new things, use judgment to make decisions, and pay attention

neurological – such as how your body functions

sensory – such as how you see or hear

physical – such as the ability to move parts of your body.

psychosocial – meaning that the individual has reduced capacity to do daily life activities and tasks due to their mental health.

It doesn’t matter what caused your impairment, for example if you’ve had it from birth, or acquired it from an injury, accident or health condition, or when it is due to diagnosed mental health condition(s)

Fitting in to a participants shoes – The above is a process that no one would like to undertake unsupported for multiple reasons – The below points outline just a few reasons why :

  1. Stigma and Fear of Discrimination: Writing about personal experiences, functional impairments, and the impact of a psychosocial disability is understandably emotionally challenging.  Individuals may fear facing stigma, discrimination, or judgment when disclosing personal details about their mental health condition. This fear can discourage them from attempting to access the NDIS, as they may be concerned about the potential consequences of disclosing their challenges
  2. Negative Past Experiences: Some individuals may have had negative experiences in the past when seeking support or disclosing their disability. These experiences, such as being disbelieved or not receiving appropriate assistance, can create a sense of disillusionment and discourage individuals from wanting to engage with the NDIS. The fear of reliving those negative experiences may lead them to hesitate in embarking on their own application.
  3. Many individuals with psychosocial disabilities may not be fully aware of the NDIS application process or have a clear understanding of how to articulate their functional impairments. This lack of knowledge can create uncertainty and anxiety, making the task of writing an application daunting. Without proper guidance or support, individuals may feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to effectively communicate their needs, resulting in them avoiding the application altogether.
  4. Poor Insight and Self-Advocacy Skills: Some individuals with psychosocial disabilities may struggle with poor insight into their condition or have limited self-advocacy skills. Poor insight refers to difficulties in recognizing the impact of their disability on their daily life activities or understanding the need for external support. Additionally, limited self-advocacy skills can make it challenging for individuals to effectively communicate their needs and assertively advocate for themselves. These factors can hinder the ability to write a comprehensive application and outline functional impairments. Individuals with poor insight may underestimate the impact of their disability, leading them to downplay or outline important details in their application.


Therefore, having a support person to assist writing functional impairments for the application can be extremely beneficial for individuals – Especially those living with psychosocial disabilities. Below are just some of the reasons why  –

  1. Objective Perspective: Support people offer an objective perspective when assisting with the application. They can review the information provided by the individual, identify any gaps or areas that require further clarification, and ensure that all relevant details are included. This can include information and presentations that they have witnessed first hand when supporting the individual. Their objectivity helps to present a well-rounded and accurate representation of the individual’s functional impairments, in turn increasing the likelihood of a successful application.
  2. Advocacy and Empowerment: Support people can act as advocates for individuals with psychosocial disabilities. They can help individuals articulate their needs and experiences in a way that resonates with the NDIS. By ensuring that functional impairments are clearly and accurately described, support people empower individuals to access the appropriate level of support and services that will enhance their quality of life.
  3. Highlighting Examples and Impact: Support persons can assist individuals in providing specific examples that illustrate the impact of their functional impairments. They can help individuals identify and describe real-life situations where their disability hinders their ability to perform tasks or participate in various domains of life. By highlighting these examples, support persons enable the NDIS assessors to grasp the daily challenges individuals face and the support required for improvement.

Demonstrating Functional Impairments –

Accurately representing a person’s psychosocial disability in the functional impairment domains requires an in-depth understanding of the individual’s experiences and challenges. Remembering the six domains of functional impairments that the NDIS have outlined –

  1. Social Interaction: When describing functional impairments in social interaction, consider the person’s ability to initiate and maintain meaningful relationships, engage in social activities, and navigate social cues. Focus on how the psychosocial disability impacts their ability to communicate, connect with others, and participate in social settings. Describe any difficulties they face in understanding social norms, expressing emotions, or establishing social support networks.
  2. Self-Management: When outlining functional impairments in self-management, focus on the person’s ability to organize and make decisions related to their daily life. This may include difficulties in managing personal finances, medication adherence, maintaining routines, and planning for the future. Highlight any challenges in goal-setting, problem-solving, time management, or maintaining motivation due to the psychosocial disability.
  3. Communication: In the communication domain, describe how the psychosocial disability impacts the person’s ability to express themselves, understand others, and effectively communicate their needs. Consider difficulties with verbal and non-verbal communication, such as challenges with articulation, comprehension, social cues, and/or expressing thoughts and emotions. Highlight any support required to enhance communication and ensure meaningful interactions.
  4. Learning: When addressing functional impairments in learning, focus on how the psychosocial disability affects the person’s ability to acquire and retain new knowledge, process information, and engage in educational activities. Consider challenges with attention, concentration, memory, problem-solving, and the ability to participate in formal or informal learning environments. Describe any support needed to facilitate learning opportunities and ensure equal access to education and skill development.
  5. Mobility: In the mobility domain, assess the impact of the psychosocial disability on the person’s physical mobility, coordination, and ability to navigate their environment. Describe any limitations in their ability to move safely, independently, or efficiently. Consider challenges with motor skills, balance, spatial awareness, and the need for assistive devices or support to enhance mobility.
  6. Self-Care: In the self-care domain, assess the person’s ability to independently perform essential personal care tasks, such as grooming, bathing, dressing, and managing personal hygiene. Consider any limitations caused by the psychosocial disability, such as difficulties with motivation, executive functioning, or coping with activities of daily living. Describe how the disability affects their capacity to care for themselves and the support they require to maintain their personal well-being.Through our time here at Embark, we’ve observed the most crucial element to outline when evidencing functional impairments is to provide specific examples that illustrate the impact of the psychosocial disability in the individuals day-to-day life. Be specific, use examples, and if possible – Try and relate the individuals experienced symptoms in to daily living – Giving the assessor a true, and concise understanding of how the individuals mental health conditions can affect them throughout all of the above domains. 



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