New Federal Minister for Health

The Hon Greg Hunt MP, from Flinders in Victoria, was appointed as the new Federal Minister for Health on 18 January 2017. In his opening press conference Minister Hunt mentioned his lived experience caring for his mother and said, “I want mental health to be a critical part of my time in this role.” Mental Health Australia has spoken directly with the Minister about key issues, such as the inadequacy of the draft Fifth National Mental Health Plan, the reduction in per capital funding for community based mental health, and ongoing issues about the funding of psychosocial disability supports in the NDIS.

Fifth National Mental Health Plan

A new draft of the Fifth National Mental Health Plan was originally slated for February, following public consultations around the country late last year and ongoing workshops and meetings with key stakeholders. The Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council has approved an extension of the timeline for the completion of the Fifth Plan, which is now due to be submitted to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council for consideration at its August 2017 meeting. Further targeted consultation will be undertaken in the following months to inform the re-drafting of the plan by the Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Principle Committee writers group.

Expenditure on mental health services

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released their Mental Health Services in Australia report providing data on how much Australia is spending on mental health services. The report shows that over $8 billion was spent nationally on mental health services in 2013-14 in Australia—equivalent to $344 per person across the population. In response to the new data. Australia’s national mental health commissioner says money is needed most in community services. The impacts of underfunding in Victoria’s mental health system were recently highlighted following the tragic incident in Melbourne’s CBD on 20 January.

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

The Federal Government has announced an independent review of the NDIS to examine overall costs, value for money and its long-term sustainability, as reported by the ABC. This comes at a time when media attention has been focused on the $3.7 billion hole in NDIS funding and the possibility of that shortfall coming from the Education investment Fund.

The Board overseeing the NDIS has been expanded to ensure it has the disability service, financial management, corporate governance and insurance-based expertise needed to guide the $22 billion scheme through its critical three-year expansion to 2019-20. Dr Helen Nugent AO is the new Chair, supported by four continuing Board members and seven new members, including Ms Robyn Kruk, Deputy Board Chair of Mental Health Australia and previously CEO of the National Mental Health Commission. Read the media release here.

The NDIS Evaluation Intermediate Report, the second of three reports evaluating the NDIS, reveals poorer outcomes for people with psychosocial disability. The report includes findings from a number of NDIS trial sites around the country from May 2013 to June 2016.

The final report from the Psychosocial Supports Design Project, developed by Mental Health Australia alongside the National Disability Insurance Agency, has been released. The aim of the project was to investigate what kind of supports would best benefit participants with psychosocial disability. A key finding was that NDIS workers must establish trusting and ongoing relationships with people with psychosocial disability to enable optimal engagement, access, plan readiness, planning, and plan implementation across a participant’s NDIS journey.

The NDIS will be hosting a webinar, about developing and starting your first plan, on Tuesday 28 February at 2pm AEST. If you have questions about getting ready for your planning conversation or want to hear about how you may best implement your plan, register for the webinar here.

Homelessness and rough sleeping

The CEOs of 36 homelessness, housing and social community agencies recently signed an open letter calling for a shift in the conversation about rough sleeping to re-focus on the real issue at hand: a lack of affordable, permanent housing.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has extended funding for homelessness services by one year, committing to provide $117 million. Read more about the funding commitment here.

Absolutely Everyone: State Disability Plan 2017-2020

Community inclusion is an urgent issue in mental health and disability and underpins all the work we do at Wellways. Victoria’s State Disability Plan 2017-2020, Absolutely Everyone, tackles the negative attitudes and barriers that more than one million Victorians with a disability deal with on a daily basis. The plan, which commenced 1 January 2017, sets out priorities and action for achieving inclusion under four key pillars: inclusive communities, health, housing and wellbeing, fairness and safety, and contributing lives. See the report here.

Human rights toolkit for women and girls with disability

This toolkit has been developed by women and girls with disability to achieve change through learning about human rights. The toolkit explores priority issues that women and girls with disability have identified as most important to them.

Call for applications: National Register of Mental Health Consumer and Carer Representatives

Mental Health Australia is currently seeking applications from mental health consumers and carers to participate as members of the National Register. This is an exciting opportunity to join a pool of skilled consumer and carer representatives from across Australia, who work at the national level to provide a strong lived experience voice in the mental health sector. There are 60 places available on the National Register. Applications must be completed online and close 12pm (midday) AEDT 15 February 2017. Read more about the application process here.

2017 National NAIDOC Poster competition

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists over the age of 13 are encouraged to submit their artwork before Monday 6 March 2017 for the National NAIDOC Poster Competition on the theme ‘Our Languages Matter’. The theme aims to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity. Read more here.

Employment rates for people with disability go backwards

An annual Productivity Commission report, which examined government services across the disability, aged care, child protection and youth justice sectors, has revealed workforce and social participation rates have fallen among Australians with disabilities. Read more here.

Forums and conferences in 2017

Mark your diary for these 2017 forums and conferences: