MHCA CEO's Weekly Update - 13 June
Updates on Budget measures from Senate Estimates
Senate Estimates is an important process in Canberra, where Senators from all parties are able to ask public servants a range of questions about various Government programs and spending - often yeilding details about programs otherwise little known, and all recorded in Hansard for the consideration of any interested parties (see the link below).
Our Policy Team has been hard at work keeping in touch with the Senate Estimates hearings that were over the past two weeks. A new document on our website provides a summary of answers to a range of queries relating to the recent Budget announcements. Members may be particularly interested to note:
- An interesting exchange between Senators and representatives of the National Disability Insurance Agency and the Department of Social Services on mental health issues relating to the NDIS – I encourage you to read pages 35-38 of hansard here
- Information on planned changes to the Department of Social Services’ Discretionary Grants Programme. This Programme covers more than 4,500 grants across a range of social services sectors including community services advocacy, disability, family and community services, homelessness and mental health. The Department did not confirm the distribution of budget savings across all funded organisations in hearings but undertook to provide a list of the organisations affected by the measure on notice. We will watch for that answer when it comes.
- Reviews of Disability Support Pension recipients with a ‘primary’ psychiatric disability will be carried out by psychologists, although the Department did not have precise information on how many such recipients would be subject to review. The government expects about 5% of people under 35 on DSP will be transferred to the Newstart allowance because they have ‘partial work capacity.’ The MHCA will be keen to ensure people with mental illness are overrepresented in this group without a strong policy rationale and a robust process for assessing individual circumstances.
- Some difficult to interpret discussion on the likely future of the National Mental Health Service Planning Framework, including a view by officials from the Department of Health that the Framework ‘was drawn up by people in and of the sector, without a broader grasp on broader approaches. That meant that it was a little self-referencing.
- Uncertainties over the potential impact of the $7 GP co-payment on patients with mental health issues. The Department cannot yet confirm whether the co-payment for patients who are presently bulk-billed will apply to GP visits at which a mental health care plan is drawn up, and undertook to provide an answer to this query on notice.
Australia Day honours
You may have seen the news this week that two good friends of the MHCA received awards in this year’s Australia Day honours. Michael Burge OAM is one of our strongest consumer advocates and is a member of the NMHCCF, the Consumer Reference Group and the National Register. Michael has been awarded an OAM for his tireless work over the past 20 years. Also recognised was Professor Alan Rosen AO who was made an Officer of the Order of Australia. Alan has devoted over 30 years to campaigning for mental health reform including a focus on the integration of hospital and community services, while involving consumers and families directly in their management. Congratulations to both Michael and Alan for their well-deserved accolades.
This week, our Director of Communications, Chris Wagner spoke at an Associations Forum Members Workshop on creating a modern day communication campaign. Using the 1010.org.au campaign as the case study, Chris discussed the challenges we all face in relation to changing the public face of mental illness, and breaking down stigma. Chris discussed using a mix of traditional and modern communication techniques for maximum impact. The MHCA is currently seeking promises to support a television show with Felicity Ward, so please go to the MHCA website and make a mental health promise right now!
The first edition of our new publication was launched yesterday. Perspectives will be released bi-monthly and includes contributions from our member organisations. I have filmed a short introduction to the first edition, just click on the video on the right of this email to view. To read the first edition, please click here.
Service Delivery Grants
Another reminder about changes to the Federal Government’s service delivery grants program. Applications are open on Thursday 19 June for not for profit organisations to apply to the Department of Social Services for funding for mental health programs. The current grants program has been streamlined into seven funding buckets and applications will close on Wednesday 23 July. More information is available from the DSS website.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day - 15 June
This Sunday, 15 June, is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The day is an opportunity to draw attention to the signs and impact of elder abuse and to encourage people to take action on this serious community issue. Elder abuse is any act within a relationship of trust which results in harm to an older person. The most common forms include emotional abuse, financial abuse, physical abuse and neglect. As part of this year’s activities, the Queensland Government is running their ‘Make the Call’ campaign throughout June. The campaign encourages friends, family, colleagues and neighbours of older people who may be experiencing abuse to contact the Elder Abuse Hotline. More details about this campaign can be found at the website.
The Big Issue achieves milestone
In an amazing achievement, not for profit street magazine, The Big Issue, is set to sell its nine millionth magazine in the coming days. The milestone will coincide with the magazine’s 18th anniversary on June 16. The Big Issue is an independent, fortnightly magazine that has provided employment to thousands of homeless and disadvantaged people since its launch in 1996 and has recently expanded its services to include a digital edition. More information is available from the website.
SANE Australia Hocking Fellowship awarded
The inaugural Hocking Fellowship has been awarded to Sonia Neale, a mental health peer support worker from Perth. The Fellowship is an initiative of SANE Australia and recognises the contribution of former SANE Executive Director Barbara Hocking OAM. The grant will allow Sonia to travel to Europe and the United States to study world-leading treatments for borderline personality disorder, including dialectical behaviour therapy, mindfulness and peer support programs. Our congratulations go to Sonia and you can read more on the SANE Australia website.
eMHPrac Project - survey extended
As advised in previous updates, clinical researchers at the Australian National University are developing training activities to support the use of e-mental health resources in primary care across Australia. If you are an allied health professional or nurse working in primary care, they want your help! Please provide your views about e-mental health via an online survey.
Kids Helpline Overview 2013
Kids Helpline, Australia’s only 24/7 national counselling and support service for children and young people, have released their overview of the key issues affecting young people in Australia last year. The report found that mental health concerns are the number one issue affecting children and young people followed by family relationships, emotional wellbeing, suicide-related concerns and dating and partner relationships. The service also reports that the demand for ongoing counselling support for children and young people continues to increase. You can download the full report from the Kids Helpline website.
TheMHS Conference 2014
TheMHS Conference is the largest and longest running multidisciplinary mental health conference in Australasia. This year’s Conference will be held at the Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre on August 26–29. Keynote speakers include Pat Bracken, Melody Riefer and Kenneth Thompson. Full details including registration information are available from the website.
National Suicide Prevention Conference
Don’t forget to register for the upcoming National Suicide Prevention Conference, being held in Perth from 23-26 July. A range of pre-conference workshops are open to both delegates and non-delegates as well as a special session ‘Harnessing the voice of lived experience’ that will take place on day four of the Conference. Full details including registration information are available on the website.
LGBTI Mental Health Conference
Registrations are still open for the National LGBTI Health Alliance’s MindOUT! Mental Health Conference, being held in Sydney from 26-27 June. With the theme Courageous Voices: Seeds of Hope and Transformation, the conference will focus on the enablers as well as the barriers that individuals encounter in coming to the point of being able to acknowledge and affirm their sexuality and/or gender identity. Full details are available on the website.
Chief Executive Officer