2022 Federal Budget Summary
In the 2021 Federal Budget, the Australian Government provided a welcome investment of $2.3 billion acknowledging this was but the first instalment required to address the recommendations of the once in a generation Inquiry into Mental Health completed by the Productivity Commission in 2020. While the 2022 Federal Budget provides a welcome investment in mental health of $658 million that will enhance the current mental health system, it is not investment on the scale required to sustain momentum for mental health reform. Workforce investments ignore the community non-government services sector and there is no additional funding for psychosocial services.
Let’s not forget, the Productivity Commission Inquiry told us that the cost to the Australian economy of mental illness and suicide is estimated to be about $70 billion per year. It estimated addressing its priority recommendations would cost $2.4 billion per year and implementing all recommendations would cost between $3.5 and 4.2 billion per year. In the context of the current cost to the Australian economy of mental illness, this size of investment seems like a drop in the ocean.
In addition, mental health investments in the 2022 Federal Budget appear to be made in the absence of a national vision for the person-led, community focussed mental health system multiple inquiries have called for. The recently released National Agreement on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, while establishing an excellent set of principles, fails to follow through with actionable and accountable steps to achieve their realisation.
Despite the absence of a cohesive national vision or the appropriate level of investment, there are still some very welcome measures in the 2022 Federal Budget.
The increased funding of services supporting schools in their support of children, expanded services for young people and additional support for women escaping family violence and trauma are important. As is improving access to mental health, suicide prevention, and social and emotional wellbeing services for indigenous and CALD communities.
The workforce initiatives are a start but fall well short of addressing the chronic workforce shortages faced in the sector and there aren’t any focussed on the community non-government sector but rather on clinical workforces. This is a major gap. There is no additional funding for psychosocial services.
The suicide prevention investments will not be sufficient to make a significant impact upon suicide rates in line with Mental Health Australia’s campaign to reduce suicides by 25%. These are just a few initial insights of the 2022 Budget.
Outlined is a summary of mental health related measures – taken directly from Budget Papers 2 and 3 and Portfolio Budget Statements.