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Media Release by Senator the Hon Ursula Stephens

Helping people in Perth’s Southern suburbs with a mental illness

People with a severe mental illness in the Swan, Bentley and surrounding regions will continue to have access to intensive, one-on-one support with the Richmond Fellowship of WA receiving a $2.6 million Australian Government funding extension for Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMs) services.

Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector, Senator Ursula Stephens, today visited the Richmond Fellowship of WA in Cannington to make the announcement which is part of an $80.3 million extension to PHaMs nationally, announced by the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin.

The Richmond Fellowship of WA is supporting over 120 people with mental illness through two PHaMs services operating from Cannington, each receiving around $1.3 million in extra funding to 2013.

“Mental illness can have a devastating effect on people’s lives,” Senator Stephens said.

“Working one-on-one with participants, personal helpers and mentors provide practical help with setting and achieving personal goals, such as finding suitable housing, using public transport or improving relationships with family and friends.

“By building self confidence and increasing their connections with people and services in our community, personal helpers and mentors help participants overcome social isolation that can be so crippling for people with mental illness.

“They also help reduce the load on local families and carers of people who often have little or no time for themselves due to the demands of their caring,” Senator Stephens said.

“Richmond Fellowship of WA has long been a champion of supporting disadvantaged people in the state.”

PHaMs in an innovative model for supporting people with a severe mental illness in the community, rather than solely in medical services.

Early findings from an independent evaluation show that participants in the program had more confidence to re-connect with mainstream services, learnt new skills and were less socially isolated.

The Australian Government currently provides 18 PHaMs services across Western Australia, and over 160 nation-wide. Since 2007, PHaMs services have helped around 9,000 people with a mental illness across Australia.