Mental Health Funding

22 Feb 2007 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse a question about mental health funding.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK:We know well in this state that South Australia has achieved the wooden spoon award for NGO funding in mental health at 2 per cent of expenditure, which is one-third of the national average. Much song and dance was made at the announcement of $25 million oneoff funding provided in the 2005 budget (which is getting close to two years ago) to, as the government put it in numerous press releases, ‘meet increasing levels of demand for community mental health services’. This funding has been provided to a number of non-government organisations (NGOs) and, in particular, to a program which is known as Strategy 6, which provides intensive support packages.

The non-government sector has managed to build capacity very quickly, and that has been recognised, and it is putting on appropriate staff to meet demand, but many NGOs have run out of funding to provide additional services to clients, particularly those with medium and low level needs. The sector has anticipated a follow up on the one-off funding, first in the 2006-07 budget (which was delivered an unprecedented four months late) and then some response in the Cappo report. It appears that it will now have to have wait until the 2007-08 budget, to be delivered on 7 June this year. Some service providers will run out of funds on 30 June so, in effect, they will have two to three weeks to work out whether they will be continuing. My questions are:

1. Why has the government not given any commitment in the past 18 months to support non-government service providers?

2. What strategies does the government have if any of these services fall over before it can be bothered telling us what it is doing about its funding?

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The honourable minister has the call.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO(Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse): I am pleased to have an opportunity to answer this important question, and I think it is quite a joke because the opposition has no plan for mental health and never did. The opposition sat on its hands for eight years and allowed our mental health system to basically fall down around its ears; it did nothing then and it has no plan now.

This government has here a reform agenda, with money attached to it, that will create an extra 76 beds in the system and that will improve mental health services for those people who need them the most—yet the opposition wallows in the bog of the past, and it is of its own making. As I said, the opposition is weak and lazy. It has failed to read the report and the government’s response to that—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. G.E. GAGO: If opposition members had bothered to read the report, they would see that it clearly commits to the important work that the NGO sector provides to mental health services. There is a clear commitment in that report and, as I have said, the South Australian government has also committed to the overall direction of all 41 recommendations passed down by the Social Inclusion Board.

In terms of NGO funding, there are NGO and a number of other elements within the plan that will require further funding modelling, and we have given a clear commitment to address any other funding issues within the normal government budgetary processes over the next five years.

This government also gave a very generous $25 million oneoff funding, which has provided a range of very valuable services. Many of those programs have been rolled out over a two to
three year period, and I understand that a number of them will not be completed until the end of this financial year. The government is monitoring this very carefully and has given a commitment to address other funding considerations within the normal bilateral budgetary processes. In terms of the interesting figures that the Hon. Rob Lucas mentioned, I am pleased to advise that I have been given information that shows that—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! Both sides of the council will come to order.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I am advised that the figure of 655 in the 2002-03 NMHR report includes 369 adult general and acute beds, 234 aged beds, 12 children’s beds, and 40 forensic beds. This is a total of 655 beds. Clearly, he has not read the report because, if he had, he would see that forensic, children’s and aged beds are not included, so we need to add in those. As I said, the opposition is weak and lazy and has not bothered to read the report or do its figures, and I think that is a real shame. This is a real opportunity to offer bipartisan support to implement a reform agenda that will provide a pivot for our services for decades to come. Of course, at the centre, if they had bothered to look at the report, they would see that the community mental health centres are the driver of that reform.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have a supplementary question arising from some part of that answer. Can the minister advise what ‘clear commitment’, as she called it, is in this report? All I can find are weasel words.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Truly, as I said, weak and lazy.

We have made it very clear that further funding issues will be dealt with in the normal government budgetary process.

It is a very clear process; it is the usual and normal process that governments go through. It is the same process the opposition used when it was in government.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise that NGOs, therefore, will have 23 days’ notice of whether or not they have to shut their doors?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I have given my answer to those questions. I do not believe that I need to take any more time to answer them.