NMHC oversee Fifth National Mental Health Plan

The Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan was approved by the states during the recent COAG meeting in Brisbane. The National Mental Health Commission will oversee the implementation of this plan. 

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt particularly welcomed the focus on suicide prevention and eating disorders in this fifth plan. In addition, the plan highlights improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and suicide prevention, reducing stigma and discrimination, and better coordinating treatment and support programs.

National Mental Health Commission update

The incoming Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, Lucy Brogden, recently spoke about how accessible housing is crucial to mental health treatment in an ABC Radio AM interview. The Commission is working closely with AHURI (Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute) to address this issue. 

Former Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, Professor Allan Fels discussed the Equally Well National Consensus Statement and called for better collaboration and coordination between governments, professional bodies, social and community services and other leaders in mental health to make the physical health of people living with mental illness a national priority.

2016 National Social Housing Survey report released

The 2016 National Social Housing Survey report was released in August 2017. Social housing tenants reported many benefits of social housing, with the majority (more than 90%) feeling more settled than they were prior to moving into social housing, able to continue living in the same area and better able to manage rent or money. According to the report, 3 in 5 respondents aged 15–64 were not in the labour force.

Around 1 in 3 social housing households included at least one member with disability. Across all social housing programs, two-thirds or more of households with a person with disability indicated that ‘modifications for special needs’ were important to them and that this need had been met by their housing provider. In 2016, the most frequent service accessed by social housing tenants in the previous 12 months across all jurisdictions and housing programs was health and medical services (7 in 10), while the use of mental health services ranged between 1 in 4 and 1 in 6.

Funding extended for National Disability Advocacy Program

Funding has been extended for the National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP) and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) appeals providers and a new funding round for Disability Representative Organisations (DRO) to the tune of $60 million. The Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, said the commitment ensured disability advocacy services would continue to be funded until 30 June 2020. The Minister reiterated that a national disability advocacy support system required “ongoing investment from states and territories to ensure their citizens can resolve issues with state-run services, and advocates can participate effectively in state-based planning”.

Wingmen online toolkit

Wingmen, a mental health support hub for gay men, by gay men, has created an online toolkit to help men recognise when their mates might be going through a difficult time. 

Wingmen has been developed by beyondblue and the National LGBTI Health Alliance and is funded by the Movember Foundation. 

Federal Government ups pressure on states to uphold NDIS funding agreements

Social Services Minister, Christian Porter, has warned the states they must adhere to their National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding agreements despite a June draft report from the Productivity Commission warning of upcoming ‘cost pressures’. A final report will be released in October regarding the scheme’s future costs and could recommend an increase to the annual 3.5% inflationary funding figure.

NDIS reaches 100,000 milestone in August

100,000 Australians with disability are now accessing support through the NDIS, marking a major milestone for the scheme. Ultimately, the NDIS is working towards providing support for an estimated 460,000 people with permanent or significant disability under the age of 65 years, including access to personal care and support, community therapy services and essential equipment to help them lead more independent lives. Despite this, the NDIS is the furthest behind schedule since the start of transition last year and has only reached 83% of its target as of June 2017.

Parliamentary report into services under NDIS for people with psychosocial disability released

A parliamentary report has made 24 recommendations related to NDIS access for people with psychosocial disabilities related to mental health. The report discusses the Scheme design and processes, eligibility criteria, the scope and level of funding for mental health services under the ILC framework, and how state and federal governments must address the needs of people not eligible for the Scheme. Read the VICSERV summary of the Joint Standing Committee report into Psychosocial Disability and the NDIS.

NDIS response to Productivity Commission position on NDIS costs

The NDIA acknowledges that participants with psychosocial disability are most at risk of experiencing poor outcomes. Read the Productivity Commission report on NDIS costs.

NDIS quarterly report released

The NDIA released its latest quarterly report which outlines progress in NDIS implementation, including statistics on the number of participant plans and the funding or provision of support across states and territories. Victoria has experienced an increase in people with psychosocial disability entering the NDIS scheme, up from 9% in the last quarter to 16% this quarter. Participants with psychosocial disability are receiving plans with average annual values of $30,000, which is less than the expected average.

Update on NDIS resources

The NDIA has released a factsheet on support coordination. It contains information about what activities a support coordinator provides, what outcomes they deliver, and how support coordinators engaged. Videos have also been developed by the NDIA to assist participants to better understand the NDIS and how to prepare for a planning meeting to get the most out of the Scheme.

New Powers for the Disability Services Commissioner

The Victorian Disability Services Commissioner (DSC) has been given new investigative and inspection powers to assist people with a disability. 

The Disability Amendment Act 2017 increases safeguards by giving the commissioner new powers to initiate investigations into allegations of abuse and neglect, to investigate matters referred by the Minister or the Secretary relating to service provision, to visit and inspect certain disability services without a warrant, and to provide education and information about preventing and responding to abuse. Read the media release.

Improving mental health for school principals and police 

A discussion paper has been released by the Victorian Minister for Education, James Merlino, to engage school principals on a strategy to boost their health and wellbeing. The Minister for Police Lisa Neville recently announced a three year strategy for protecting, promoting and preserving the mental health and wellbeing of officers and staff at Victoria Police. The Victoria Police Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy and Action Plan 2017–2020 identifies key priority areas which include developing a leadership cultural change program, strengthening mental health literacy, increasing support for mental health and wellbeing services and improving employee lifecycle initiatives.

Vale Fiona Richardson

A State Memorial Service was held on 30 August to celebrate the life of Victoria’s Minister for Family Violence, Fiona Richardson following her long battle with breast cancer. A friend of Wellways, Ms Richardson will be greatly missed. She campaigned tirelessly for the safety of women and children at a local, state and national level and advocated on behalf of victims and survivors of family violence.

The PECCC project

Promoting the exercise of consumer control and choice (PECCC) is a development project involving consumer-citizens and service providers experienced in leading or initiating consumer control and choice. The project aims to promote the universal adoption of consumer-led service delivery models across Victoria. Currently PECCC is recruiting for consumer, carers and service providers to participate in the project.
PECCC was formally launched by VICSERV, on behalf of the Victorian Collaborative Panel on Ageing, Mental Health and Disability.

Suicide by Veterans report released

A report tabled by the Defence and Trade References Committee into suicide by veterans has recommended that immediate as well as longer term action is required to address this important issue. The Constant Battle, Suicide by Veterans list a range of recommendations which include: streamlining administration and improving DVA staff training, developing targeted programs based on new research, increasing access to the mental health community, establishing a National Suicide Register and longer term, an Advocacy Bureau for veterans.

Have Your Say! Consumer and Carer Priorities for Mental Health Research

Participants wanted for a study exploring priorities for mental health research among mental health consumers and carers in the Australian community. Complete this survey to rate the priority of research topics generated by consumers and carers, suggest new topics and guide future research. This research is being conducted by ACACIA: The ACT Consumer and Carer Mental Health Research Unit. Complete the survey or find out more

2017 Tandem Awards commends Wellways staff

Wellways staff Yonas Mihtsuntu, Coordinator Family Services and Jan Korolew, Carer Consultant, received commendations for Exceptional Service to Families and Carers in the recent Tandem Awards held at the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne. The annual Tandem Awards are a chance for carers to nominate individuals and services who demonstrate a family inclusive approach and compassionate work practices in the mental health system. Congratulations Yonas and Jan, and to all the other awards recipients on the night. A big thank you to Tandem for recognising outstanding workers and service delivery. 

Wellways says ‘Yes’ to Marriage Equality 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has begun mailing survey forms to 16 million Australians, inviting us to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question: ‘Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?' Wellways has always supported social change and inclusive communities. The Marriage Equality Survey is another opportunity to make sure everyone is afforded the same rights, privileges, responsibilities and choices in our society. 

Discrimination targeting LGBTIQA Australians can have a detrimental impact on the mental health of these community members. Wellways believes Parliament should pass laws that remove discrimination, including laws regarding marriage equality.

Therefore, we are urging people to vote 'yes'.

The LGBTIQA community experiences higher rates of mental health issues, suicide and self-harm than other groups. Please be respectful during the debates and look out for your loved ones, family members and colleagues – it is not okay for people to feel excluded and vulnerable. 

Our Helpline is open from 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays) for anyone needing support. Call 1300 111 500.

Make sure your say is counted in the Marriage Equality Survey. Responses are due back by Friday 27 October with the survey closing on Tuesday 7 November. The Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey results will be published on Wednesday 15 November 2017.

Upcoming Mental Health Week events and national conferences

Mental Health Wellbeing 4km Walk, Sunday 8 October 2017, Melbourne.

Mental Health Foundation Australia’s 32nd annual Mental Health Week Launch, Mental Health in the Workplace, Monday 9 October 2017, Melbourne.

ACOSS National Conference, Australia in 2030: Creating the Future We Want, 24-25 October 2017, Melbourne.

National NDIS Mental Health Conference, Towards a Better Life, 16-17 November 2017, Sydney.