Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

More community-based support for people with mental illness and their families

Joint Media Release with:

  • Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
    Mark Butler MP, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing

  • Mark Butler MP, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing
    Julie Collins MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services

Around 35,000 Australians with mental illness and their carers will have access to much-needed support with a $269.3 million boost over the next five years to community mental health services.

The Gillard Government will invest $154 million over the next five years for community organisations to employ 425 additional personal helpers and mentors, to work one-on-one with people with mental illness across Australia.

The new personal helpers and mentors will join the more than 1,000 current full-time equivalent workers who are already providing practical support to people with severe mental illness under the Australian Government’s successful Personal Helpers and Mentors program.

The new workers will help an additional 3,400 people with mental illness to help them live more independent lives and reconnect with the wider community.

The personal helpers and mentors assist people with severe and debilitating mental illness, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, to set and achieve personal goals such as finding employment and improving relationships with family and friends.

As part of this expansion, $50 million will be allocated to provide personal helpers and mentors to specifically help people with mental illness on, or claiming, income support or the Disability Support Pension who are also participating in employment services.

This intensive support will help jobseekers with a mental illness to look for work, or participate in education or training.

People with mental illness have very low workforce participation rates – 42 per cent compared to 83 per cent of people without disability.

As part of the Personal Helpers and Mentors expansion, $54.3 million for extra mental health respite services will be provided. This will give about 1,100 families of people with a mental illness greater access to flexible respite and support services over the next five years.

Caring for people with mental illness can be very demanding. Respite services give carers a short break, and an opportunity to participate socially, for example through support groups.

The Australian Government is also investing $61 million over five years to establish 40 new Family Mental Health Support Services. These services operate alongside family relationship services and provide a way for families to get help for their children who are suffering from, or at risk of mental illness, outside of the clinical mental health system.

These new support services will provide more than 32,000 children and young people with, or at risk of mental illness support such as counselling, and support in their own home to help them attend school and build better relationships with family and friends.

The new services will also actively work with schools and other key agencies including Centrelink, state child protection and child and adolescent mental health services where families and children need more assistance.

We know that half of all serious mental health and substance use disorders commence by the age of 14, and 75 per cent commence by the age of 25.

Coordinated early intervention support for children and young people with mental illness can prevent mental health issues getting worse as they grow up.

The new community mental health services will be rolled out progressively from January 2012 and be fully operational from July 2014.