Today’s announcement shows the State Labor Government continues to ignore red flags raised by school principals, psychologists and counsellors that Victoria’s mental health workforce isn’t keeping up with demand for youth mental health.
Under-staffed mental health services can’t provide the care and preventative support Victorian kids so desperately need.
Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy said the Youth Prevention and Recovery Care Centre (YPARC) at Parkville was needed, but it came as the sector was drowning in high demand and dire specialist shortages.
“The Government is big on fanfare, but more ribbon cutting ceremonies wont do a shred of good to fix the real problem of shortages in the over-worked and fatigued mental health workforce,” Ms Kealy said.
“Every headspace in Victoria has vacancies for mental health workers including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and youth workers.
“Mental health experts are telling us the two month delay to get in for an appointment is abandoning kids at crisis point and putting young lives at risk.
“School principals are crying out for more resourcing to help kids experiencing ‘profound’ levels of anxiety after two years of lost learning and time away from the classroom.
“But instead of supporting the Liberals and Nationals’ plans to unlock thousands of counsellors and trainee psychologists to support exhausted workers, the Labor Government is actively blocking them and holding kids back from recovery.”
Three years ago the Royal Commission warned Victoria must urgently act to address critical workforce shortages, with more than half the recommendations detailing solutions for workforce pressures.
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).
“State Labor has been in government for 19 of the past 23 years but still ignores dire warnings to rebuild our mental health workforce,” Ms Kealy said.
“Only a change in Government will deliver the Australia’s largest ever mental health worker recruitment drive, funding criteria changes for an extra 2000 trainee psychologists in clinics and legislative reform to unlock 2000 counsellors for our schools.
“The Liberals and Nationals will work with the sector to cut mental health waitlists so kids can get support long before they reach crisis point.”
Five of the nine recommendations in the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System: Interim Report related to workforce shortages, including:
Recommendation 7 (Workforce readiness)
The Royal Commission recommends that the Victorian Government, through the Mental Health Implementation Office, prepares for workforce reform and addresses workforce shortages by developing educational and training pathways and recruitment strategies by providing:
• public mental health services in areas of need, including in rural and regional locations, through an expression of interest process that each year offers a minimum of:
– 60 new funded graduate placements for allied health and other professionals
– 120 additional funded graduate placements for nurses
• postgraduate mental health nurse scholarships to 140 additional nurses each year that covers the full costs of study
• an agreed proportion of junior medical officers to undertake a psychiatry rotation, effective from 2021, with it being mandatory for all junior medical officers by 2023 or earlier
• overseas recruitment campaigns, including resources to assist mental health services to recruit internationally, new recruitment partnerships between organisations, and mentoring programs for new employees
• a ‘mental health leadership network’ with representation across the state and the various disciplines, including lived experience workforces, supported to participate collaboratively in new learning, training and mentorship opportunities
• the collation and publication of the profile of the mental health workforce across all geographic areas, disciplines, settings and sub-specialties
• mechanisms for continuing data collection and analysis of workforce gaps and projections, and the regular mapping of the workforce to meet these gaps.