Making the Welfare System Work for Mental Health Consumers and Carers – Submission to the Interim Report of the Reference Group on Welfare Reform

This is a joint submission from the Mental Health Council of Australia and the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum in response to the Interim Report by the Reference Group on Welfare Reform. It identifies a number of what we believe are the key elements of welfare reform necessary to ensure the system delivers better social and economic outcomes for mental health consumers and carers, including:

  • Outlining what we believe are the key features of a high functioning welfare system
  • Addressing labour market realties, barriers to employment for mental health consumers and carers and the capacity of employment services to take on new ‘job-seekers’
  • Key issues for the mental health sector: (eligibility for the Disability Support Pension, payment adequacy and the impact that the proposed payment structure would have on mental health consumers and carers, supporting carers, mutual obligation and how to make it work for consumers and carers and the impact of penalties for non-compliance with mutual obligation on mental health and wellbeing
  • Employment services: Engagement in Job Services Australia and Disability Employment Services by mental health consumers and carers, the effectiveness of employment services, consumer and carer perspectives on experiences with employment services and what reforms/new models could be adopted and implemented to deliver better sustainable employment outcomes for mental health consumers based on what the evidence says works)
  • Engaging with employers: We acknowledge that engaging with employers in order to lift employment participation by consumers and carers  and suggest that volunteering, wage subsidies and a national awareness campaign to promote the value of increasing workplace diversity could be key strategies to adopt
  • Income protection insurance – We discuss the importance of income protection as an important source of both financial and labour market support for people with mental illness
  • NDIS and the income support system
  • In addition we present the key findings from our consultations with consumers and carers about life on the DSP and the Carer Payment and their interactions with the Income Support System and discuss the issue of stigma and the role it plays in inhibiting social and economic participation by mental health consumers and carers
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