Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Boost in support for people with mental illness and their carers

Joint Media Release with:

  • Mark Butler MP, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Minister for Social Inclusion, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Mental Health Reform

    Julie Owens MP, Member for Parramatta

Australians with severe mental illness, their families and carers will have greater access to support services and other practical assistance locally in their communities thanks to a $121 million boost from the Gillard Government.

Minister for Disability Reform Jenny Macklin and Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler said the new and expanded services are part of the Government’s record $2.2 billion national mental health reform package.

The boost to the Personal Helpers and Mentors program (PHaMs) will build on existing investments by delivering more than 230 extra personal helpers and mentors who will work one-on-one with people with mental illness across Australia.

These new PHaMS services and workers will enable an additional 2,500 people with severe mental illness to receive personal help and mentoring that will assist them to reconnect to health care, the workforce and their communities, across 38 new locations and expanded services in 20 existing locations across the country.

One hundred and fifty two of the new personal helpers and mentors will be engaged by specialised PHaMs employment services, working with people with mental illness on the Disability Support Pension and other payments to help them become ready to enter the workforce. PHaMs will work closely with government employment service providers to ensure people have all the support they need.

The Gillard Government is providing the new PHaMs employment workers because we understand how important it is to help people with severe mental illness build their capacity to find and keep a job and stay connected with their community.

We are also funding additional mental health carer support services which will give around 1,100 extra families of people with severe mental illness access to 24 new flexible respite and support services and expanded services across a further seven existing sites.

This investment recognises that carers and families need flexible and responsive support options including the ability to take short breaks from their caring roles, participate in community and social activities, engage in peer support groups and education, or receive counselling and advice, all contributing to their own health and wellbeing.

Today’s announcement builds on the range of investments already delivered by the Gillard Government through our historic $2.2 billion national investment in mental health reform, including the 175 PHaMs services currently operating across the country.

The Gillard Government is delivering practical assistance to people with mental illness to help them achieve their personal goals, participate more fully in their community and in work, develop better relationships with family and friends, and manage their everyday tasks.

These flexible services also respond to the National Mental Health Commission recommendation to increase participation in work and employment. As the Commission says ‘what’s good for people with mental health difficulties is also good for the economy’.

Importantly, a number of the new and expanded PHaMs and carer support services will be located in launch sites for DisabilityCare Australia, the national disability insurance scheme. These will help provide support for families in caring roles and improve choices for people with mental illness – which are core aims of the scheme.

These sites are in South Australia, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory, the Hunter region of New South Wales and the Barwon region in Victoria.

Successful projects can be viewed here: