Mental Health Carers NSW (MHCN) is concerned that Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is not recognised as a disability in Australia and thus almost no specific programs have been developed to address this disability across the community. Worse, even with significant reform taking place in Australia’s disability support system, people with FASD are only eligible to receive support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) if they are sufficiently disabled by one of the common conditions FASD can give rise too, (not because of the FASD itself). Yet FASD can have severe consequences on the development of a child and ongoing functioning throughout their lifespan, with very high levels of mental ill health being experienced by members of this group. FASD related disabilities can result in low self-esteem, feelings of isolation, and difficulties in engaging with education and employment opportunities.
While some services do exist to assist those affected by FASD, they are scarce and often not easily accessible for those who require them. For instance, there are currently only five support groups across four states in Australia, which is simply not enough to address the needs of all individuals who are affected by FASD (NOFASD 2013; RFFADA 2016). Access to support under the NDIS would provide people with FASD with greater access to treatments and support, referral to both new and existing specialised services, more support groups, and respite services for their families and carers. The majority of people with FASD experience severe mental health issues at some point in their lives, meaning their families and carers will at some stage become mental health carers with their own need for appropriate support. As such, MHCN believes that FASD should be recognised as a disability in Australia so people living with FASD are entitled to receive help under the NDIS and otherwise, and have the proper supports required to live a fulfilling life.