A plan to boost youth mental health services by 2026 is years too late for children who are suffering right now and could benefit from other immediate reforms that the Andrews Labor Government has refused to support.
The Government has today trumpeted a plan to ‘scale up’ a mental health in primary schools program from 2023, but confirmed some schools will still have to wait another four years for a Mental Health and Wellbeing Leader.
At the same time, Labor MPs have twice blocked a move by the Liberals and Nationals in Parliament to make reforms that will immediately unlock an extra 2000 counsellors for the school-based mental health workforce.
Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy said without enough workers to fill vacancies, the sector won’t keep up.
“It doesn’t matter how much money Labor throws at a problem, it won’t make a dent unless we address the shortage of mental health practitioners in our state,” Ms Kealy said.
“Growing evidence is showing that isolation and learning disruptions of Labor’s six lockdowns are still weighing heavily on Victorian kids. Delaying change for a further four years does nothing to help Victorian kids who are suffering poor mental health right now.
“The sector has been crying out for reform to address worker shortages for years – long before the COVID pandemic put more demand on Victoria’s fatigued and under-resourced mental health workforce.
“State Labor has been in government for 20 of the past 24 years but still ignores dire warnings to rebuild our mental health workforce.
“Immediate reforms can be made right now which will unlock 2000 counsellors to work in Victorian schools, but while Labor MPs block these changes Victorian kids will continue to suffer.”
Three years ago, the Royal Commission made damning findings on the failure to plan for future demands on Victoria’s mental health workforce. More than half the recommendations called for urgent reform to boost the workforce.
The damning assessment found there weren’t enough workers “across most professions” leading to “staff burnout, low morale and deskilling”.
Further, “workforce shortages have powerful negative effects on access and quality of care, ultimately compromising outcomes for people living with mental illness, their families and carers” (Interim Report, p453).