State & territory jurisdictional reports: Activity relating to mental health reform prior to the implementation of the Fourth National Mental Health Plan

14. Expand the level and range of support for families and carers of people with mental illness and mental health problems, including children of parents with a mental illness

Page last updated: December 2010

The Department of Health and Ageing

  • The Children of Parents with a Mental Illness project aims to promote better mental health outcomes for children of parents with a mental health problem or disorder. It aims to increase the availability of information on how to enhance children's resilience, reducing risk factors and resources to assist children, workers and families in relation to parental mental illness (funded under the National Mental Health Program and NEIS).
  • The Department funds school based initiatives as well as support for consumer and carer organisations.
  • The Australian Child and Adolescent Trauma Loss and Grief Network is a web based network, with website content that is informed by a panel of experts in different areas related to children and adolescents and their trauma, loss and grief. It aims to link stakeholders and resources by providing up-to-date information; an online forum for people to communicate and share information and expertise; and key resources to help people understand and respond to the diverse and complex needs of these children, adolescents and their families. Top of page

The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

  • Mental Health Respite – provides respite and support for carers of people with mental illness, including young carers. Services can include counselling, education and peer support as well as alternate care.
  • Mental Health Community Based Services – includes family counselling services and local projects to support families. A component of this COAG initiative was the Carer Engagement Project, aimed at building resilience and help-seeking amongst carers. The Adversity to Advocacy report, which documents the outcomes of the workshops, was launched on 22 October 2009.
  • Young Carers Respite and Information Services Program – provides support to young carers who are at risk of not completing secondary education or vocational equivalent due to the demands of their caring role. Approximately one-third of clients are children of parents with a mental illness. The program enables young carers to access respite services and age appropriate support including educational, social and recreational activities, for example time off to study for exams, tutoring, skills development, young carer camps and activities in the school holidays. The program also provides a range of information, advice and referral services, including referral to counselling, to support young carers in managing the challenges they face as part of their caring role.
  • A National Carer Recognition Framework that includes a National Carer Strategy is being developed. The Strategy will identify priorities and actions to improve support for families and carers of people with disability, medical condition, mental illness and frailty due to age. The Strategy will shape the long-term agenda for reform and guide policy development and the delivery of services for carers and consider, amongst other things, the training and skills development needs of carers and the adequacy of case management and care coordination for carers. Top of page
  • National Disability Agreement - Early intervention and prevention is one area identified as a priority under the National Disability Agreement. An Early Intervention and Prevention Framework will be developed to increase Governments' ability to be effective with early intervention and prevention strategies and to ensure that clients receive the most appropriate and timely support by mid 2011.
  • UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability - Article 28 of the Convention recognises the right to an adequate standard of living and social protection, including housing, services and assistance for disability-related needs, as well as assistance with disability related expenses where necessary. Under the Convention, Australia is obliged to develop and carry out policies, laws and administrative measures for securing this and all other rights recognised in the Convention.
  • National Secretariat Program - FaHCSIA provides funding to 12 national disability peak organisations to provide ‗grass roots' policy advice to the Australian Government and other agencies on national issues affecting people with disability and their families. This policy advice assists government to better target services to the needs of people with disability.
  • Families and Children's Policy - Targeted prevention and early intervention programs for children and their families (9) – the Commonwealth and state, through the Early Childhood Strategy, are working on support for vulnerable children and their families, including mapping of relevant services (including mental health). Top of page
  • The Family Relationship Services are dealing with clients with increasingly complex needs. Significant increases were recorded between 2007/08 and 2008/09 for clients presenting with mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse issues. Diagnosed mental illness increased from 448 clients to 2377 (an increase of 430%) and drug and alcohol use increased from 7645 to 9340 (an increase of 22%). The aim of current program development is to offer more coordinated and responsive services that are a point of contact with the wider service system and to link clients to more appropriate services around specific to needs including mental health.
  • Developing tailored mental health care responses for highly vulnerable children is a priority under the National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children (responding to sexual abuse) and also links with the Early Childhood Strategy work.
  • Community Investment Program - aims to improve the responsiveness and integration of local community services to increase participation of vulnerable people in community life. This initiative funds a wide range of projects that promote social connectedness and civic engagement (protective factors known to impact on mental health and well being), intervene early to avoid family crisis, establish positive goals that help avert destructive influences and encourage and assist individuals to achieve their full potential. Projects are listed by state and territory at FaHCSIA's website.
  • Volunteer Grants - this initiative is part of the Australian Government's ongoing commitment to supporting volunteering, and building social inclusion and community participation in Australian communities. Details are available at volunteer grants section of FaHCSIA's website. Top of page

Human services portfolio

  • Centrelink social workers provide services to young carers to help them negotiate the Centrelink system.
  • The Child Support Program provides support to customers in emotional distress or at risk of harm to themselves and others via a range of referrals to support services. The most immediate is the Parent Support Service – an immediate and confidential telephone counselling service.
  • The Child Support Program supports the children of separated parents through targeted support and information products;
    • A Guide to Separation for Teens (aimed at 12 to 18yrs)
      • CD ROM and activity booklet for the under 12s (in development)
      • Formal partnership with Kid's Help Line
  • Centrelink will implement new servicing arrangements for customers with mental health issues from May 2010. Customers who lack insight into their condition, are remotely disadvantaged, are unable to provide medical information or are unwilling to provide medical information due to their mental health condition, will have new arrangements in place to make transition to Disability Support Pension easier. Centrelink registered psychologist Job Capacity Assessors will be empowered to diagnose relevant conditions without the requirement of a detailed medical report. Top of page

Department of Veterans' Affairs

  • Veterans and Veterans Family Counselling Service provides a range of services for the children of veterans. VVCS aims to reduce suicide risk among the children of veterans through developing partnerships with local services to ensure that sons and daughters receive appropriate care, and by supporting self-help initiatives and projects that aim to increase personal strength, resilience and coping skills. VVCS services include counselling, support and referral, psychiatric assessments, the VVCS Outreach Program, group programs and information sessions.