Mental health advocates left disappointed by the NSW State Budget

Posted 8 months ago by David McManus
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The Budget predicts an estimated $844.0 million surplus in 2024 – 25. [Source: Shutterstock]
The Budget predicts an estimated $844.0 million surplus in 2024 – 25. [Source: Shutterstock]

Despite NSW having the largest economy of all States and Territories in Australia, with a diverse range of industries and a higher-than-average income, NSW currently invests the least into mental health services per capita.

Key points:

  • Treasurer Daniel Mookhey announced $13 billion in cuts and savings as the NSW State Budget 2023 – 2024 was delivered on September 19, 2023
  • The Budget was critiqued in a joint statement penned by six mental health advocacy groups
  • In recent years, growth in the State’s expenses has far outpaced revenues

 

The New South Wales State Budget was handed down on September 19 and promised to deliver a wide range of policy measures to address State policy measures and deficits.

NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said that the Labor State Government — the first in over a decade — had taken office during challenging economic times, amid the cuts to electric vehicle rebates and the Wyangala Dam expansion.

In a statement co-signed by six peak advocacy groups representing mental health workers, consumers and carers across the State, the absence of significant mental health funding in the Budget was deemed a ‘lost opportunity.’

The advocacy group alliance welcomed investments to address the social determinants of mental health, including new funding for housing and homelessness, disaster recovery, education and healthcare, but noted a lack of new funding for mental health services.

The alliance consisted of the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses, Australian Medical Association NSW, BEING — Mental Health Consumers, Black Dog Institute, Mental Health Carers NSW and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

“Mental health services in NSW are stretched beyond capacity, frontline mental health workers are burnt out and, most importantly, people who need mental health care now have to wait longer and pay more out of pocket to get the help they need,” Black Dog Institute’s Executive Director and Chief Scientist Samuel Harvey said.

Prior to the NSW election, CEOs from the group’s member organisations warned that the NSW mental health system was on the ‘brink of crisis.’ Its individual members have continued to advocate to the Minns Government for increased mental health funding since it took office.

“The Minns Government had the opportunity and capacity, in their first Budget, to provide support to the more than 1.3 million people in NSW who live with mental health challenges — so far, it has failed to do so,” said Priscilla Brice, CEO of BEING — Mental Health Consumers, the peak body for mental health consumers in NSW.

“Urgent reform is required now; the longer reform takes, the more people will fall through the cracks and the more costly it will be.”

In the NSW State Budget foreword, Treasurer Mookhey said “[…] even in the wealthiest State of a wealthy and lucky country, we cannot rest on our good fortune.’

The advocacy alliance seemed to address the discrepancy in the public statement, which read: ‘NSW currently invests the least into mental health services per capita, compared to all other Australian States and Territories and is the only State where mental health spending per capita has decreased in the past decade.’

“The lack of funding for mental health reform in this first Labor Budget was a lost opportunity to do some real good,” Acting President of the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses Matt Ireland said.

“When new funding is made available, the extent of the problem will be that much greater due to the lack of attention in this first Labor Budget.”

Since 2003, people experiencing high to very high psychological distress increased from 10 percent of the NSW population to 17 percent — equal to more than 570,000 additional people who need mental health care in NSW, with less funding per person to provide it.

 

The organisations have called on the Minns Government to:

  1. Conduct an independent gap analysis of State-funded mental health services in NSW to identify funding and workforce gaps, including providing a clear view of service demand and role vacancies in NSW

  2. Allocate funding for mental health proportionate burden of disease, with year-on-year funding increases based on projected population growth and predicted demand
  3. Develop a reoccurring revenue stream to provide dedicated ongoing funding for mental health services, which may include implementing a Mental Health Payroll Tax Surcharge for companies with total Australian wages of more than $100 million, similar to that implemented in Victoria and Queensland

 

Do you believe that funding for mental health is vital in NSW or did the State Budget adequately deliver on other at-risk policy measures? Let the team at Talking Disability know your thoughts and subscribe to the newsletter for the latest news.

 

If you or someone you love may be at risk of a mental health crisis or needs to speak about their well-being, please contact the following supports:

13YARN — 13 92 76

24-Hour Mental Health Line — 1800 011 511

Emergency — 000

Lifeline — 13 11 14

QLife — 1800 184 527

Suicide Call Back Service — 1300 659 467