National Mental Health Reform 2011-12

Strengthening the focus on the mental health needs of children, families and youth

Page last updated: 06 June 2011

The Australian Government will strengthen its focus on prevention and early intervention, especially for children and young people, through creating partnerships between family support and health services and expanding on a significant scale proven models of mental health care such as headspace and Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centres (EPPIC).

Inadequate prevention and early intervention investment is contributing to a lifetime of disadvantage caused by chronic mental illness. We know that when the signs of mental illness are identified early in very young children and they are supported with appropriate services, children are more likely to develop resilience and learn life skills that support them to participate fully in society as they grow up.

The Government will approach mental illness for children and young people on two fronts. One is through additional, proven mental health facilities aimed at youth, covering the spectrum from prevention and connection to treatment for less severe conditions, to dedicated centres to improve the lives of young people experiencing psychotic illness. These measures will also complement the expansions of the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) program and access to e-mental health psychological therapies.

Secondly, by providing greater opportunities to assess children’s social and emotional development and helping their families access assistance through a universal three year old health check, providing training for a variety of professionals in education and early childhood, providing additional targeted early intervention services, and enhancing data collection to help target further interventions.

The following package of measures will provide clearer referrals to help families, and more services for children and their families, including the vulnerable and at-risk.

Budget Measure: Health and Wellbeing Check for 3 year olds and Expert Group in Child Mental Health - $11.0 million over the next five years

Intervening early means building strong and resilient children, and avoiding behavioural or mental health issues that can persist for the rest of a person’s life. Internationally renowned experts are telling us there is a growing body of evidence showing that you can identify kids with (or at risk of) conduct disorders or poor development very early – from three years old.

The Government will establish an Expert Group to advise on the inclusion of an evidence-based mental health and wellbeing check as part of the current Healthy Kids Check for three and four year old children, and map child mental health services nationally for inclusion in the National Health Call Centre Network.

This measure is complemented by additional child and family mental health services through the expanding ATAPS program.

Budget Measure: Family Mental Health Support – 40 additional services - $61.0 million over the next five years

The Government will increase from 40 to 80 the number of Family Mental Health Support Services (FMHSS). These services operate alongside family relationship services and provide a way for families to get help for their children who are suffering from, or at risk of mental illness, outside of the clinical mental health system.

These new support services will provide more than 30,000 children and young people with, or at risk of mental illness with support such as counselling, and support in their own home to help them attend school and build better relationships with family and friends.

The new services will also actively work with schools, and other key agencies including Centrelink, state child protection and child and adolescent mental health services where families and children need more assistance.

Budget Measure: Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) – Ongoing national implementation - $29.7 million over the next five years, at no net cost to the Budget

The Australian Government has committed to ongoing three yearly cycles of the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI). This represents an investment of approximately $28 million every three years.

The AEDI is a population based measure of how children have developed by the time they start school across five areas of early childhood development: physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, communication skills and general knowledge.

The AEDI was implemented nationally for the first time in 2009 and was a key component of the Australian Government’s early childhood reform agenda. The AEDI has also been endorsed by COAG as a national progress measure for early childhood development.

The Government’s ongoing commitment will enable data to be collected nationally every three years (2012, 2015, 2018 etc) from approximately 270,000 children in their first year of full-time school.

The AEDI results will provide governments and communities with the information they need to inform policy and planning around early childhood development. Key information about children’s mental health and wellbeing will be collected through data on their social, emotional, behavioural and physical development which will be linked to the communities in which they live.

The AEDI data will be publicly available for around 96 per cent of Australian local communities, including regional, remote and Indigenous communities. The results will be provided through a national report, online community maps and community profiles. Researchers will also be able to access the AEDI dataset and undertake data linkage activities with other datasets.

This initiative includes funding for AEDI State and Territory Coordinators and AEDI Local Champions. AEDI Coordinators will continue to work directly with communities, schools, teachers and government agencies to support participation and engagement with the AEDI. AEDI Local Champions will work directly with local community groups and service providers to support early childhood initiatives within nominated communities.

Budget Measure: Social Engagement and Emotional Development (SEED) survey of children aged eight to fourteen years - $1.5 million over the next five years, at no net cost to the Budget

The Government will invest in the development of national data specifically for young people in their middle years through a SEED survey for 8 – 14 year olds.

The survey will:
  • Use repeated open-ended group and individual interviews with a small number of children to identify dimensions of wellbeing among children and young people in the middle years, especially those who experience disadvantage.
  • Use these qualitative data to contribute towards development of an internationally comparable school based survey to measure Australian children’s wellbeing in the ‘middle years’. The survey will likely be administered by children themselves, using a computer interface.
  • Analyse the survey data to understand patterns and variation in Australian children’s wellbeing across groups and in international comparison, with a particular emphasis on children who experience disadvantage; and to propose how policy can more effectively support ‘whole-child’ approaches to improving Australian children’s wellbeing.
The national middle year’s survey is intended for repeated long term use and will monitor trends in children’s wellbeing in the middle years, among different groups of Australian children, and among Australian children in international comparison. This measure will support early identification and intervention and will inform future policy to respond to the social, emotional and mental health needs of children and young people in their middle years.

Budget Measure: headspace – funding to provide additional and sustainable youth mental health centres and reduce waiting times - $197.3 million over the next five years

Only 25 per cent of young people with mental illness access services, and for most there is a long delay between the start of symptoms and when they receive help. headspace is an evidence-based model of proven effectiveness for delivering mental health services for people between 12 and 25 years of age, but existing services cannot keep pace with demand.

Currently there are 30 operating headspace sites, and the 2010-11 Budget provided funding for up to 30 additional sites. Of these, the locations and lead agencies for the first 10 new sites have already been announced.

In this Budget, we are building on current funding and providing full national coverage of headspace services – taking the total to 90 sites across the country. We are also increasing funding for all headspace services, so they can support more young people each year. Through national coverage, headspace will be able to help up to 72,000 young people each year – more than tripling the existing service capacity.

Budget Measure: Additional Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centres (EPPIC) - $222.4 million over the next five years

Presently, youth psychosis is not well managed, with scarce specialist assistance and lengthy delays between the first experience of symptoms, diagnosis and services actually being delivered. Intervening early allows young people to get the specialist
clinical care they need and to stay in or resume education or employment, and better manage their illness – instead of leading to a lifetime of isolation. The EPPIC model – an Australian innovation – has been taken up internationally.

The Government committed to fund four additional EPPIC sites through the 2010-11 Budget, in partnership with interested states and territories. Through this Budget, the Government will seek to engage states and territories to share the cost of 12 additional sites, and ensure that all sites are supported to offer the full range of community care services to keep people at home and out of hospital.

A total of 16 EPPIC sites nationally will have the capacity to assist more than 11,000 young Australians with, or at risk of developing, psychotic mental illness; promoting an early and positive experience of managing mental illness and protecting them from poor education and employment outcomes, homelessness and other forms of disadvantage.

These measures illustrate the significant steps of the Government’s ten year commitment to improving prevention, referral and service for children and young people with mental illness.

Our aims, over time, are to ensure that:
  • children are given the opportunity by the age of five years to reach desirable emotional and developmental milestones, and are ready to learn by the time they start school;
  • children under 12 with emerging childhood disorders (and their families) such as conduct disorder and anxiety disorders will receive prompt and specialised treatment;
  • vulnerable children and young people up to 16 years at risk of mental illness or showing early signs of mental illness will receive services with their families if appropriate tailored to their needs;
  • teachers, parents and the education community have the knowledge and capacity to recognise risks to mental health behaviours and to support student resilience and wellbeing; and
  • National coverage of headspace and EPPIC sites will reduce delays in accessing treatment for the spectrum of mental disorders experienced by young people, and ensure that young people are able to reach out to mental health professionals and other support workers who understand their issues.