I have given notice of a motion to disallow the government’s regulations which have cut the maximum number of sessions available under Better Access from 18 to 10. I have taken this step in a bid to encourage the government to delay the implementation of the Better Access changes until the other services such as ATAPS and the youth mental health services are sufficiently geared up to take up the increased demand.
As the Greens Spokesperson for Mental Health, I participated in the recent Senate Inquiry into Mental Health Funding. The evidence before the inquiry (and over 1500 submissions were made) revealed that the current Government policy to rationalise the number of sessions under the Better Access initiative will probably, in the immediate term, exacerbate existing service gaps for people with severe and persistent mental illness. Unfortunately, the evidence pointed to the fact that the current system is just not ready for the Government’s proposed changes.
As a result, the Australian Greens recommended that the Federal Government postpone changes to the Better Access program to ensure the ongoing delivery of services to patients.
Whilst we understand the Government's reasons for changing the current programs, they need to demonstrate that other programs are adequately equipped to provide services to people with severe or persistent mental illness. As such, we believe that the scheduling of these cuts should be revised to ensure continuity of care. Additionally, it is important that any tightening of eligibility for Better Access be delayed until youth mental health initiatives funded in the 2011/12 Federal Budget are fully expanded and operational.
We will continue to talk to the government about a way forward to meet their objectives but also to ensure that those who are most vulnerable to the effects of these cuts can continue to receive the services they need.