Mental Health Workforce Strategy nothing more than a shallow, underdone ‘plan on a page’


Shadow Minister for Mental Health Ed Cocks MLA has pressed the Labor-Greens government in Annual Reports hearings today for details on how a recently released Mental Health Workforce Strategy was transformed into single page with no tangible actions to address Canberra’s longstanding shortage of mental health workers.

The Mental Health Workforce Strategy, released on September 21 is just one page with less than 400 words and only 21 words that cover what they plan to do to achieve their workforce goals. This comprises vague statements such as the dot point “attraction, recruitment and retention” – something which every employer in the world is doing.

By comparison, the NSW Strategic Framework and Workforce Plan for Mental Health is 146 pages long and provides the overarching framework for NSW Health action in mental health over the next five years.

Mr Cocks said in the few short months since he joined the Assembly, he has had well over 50 discussions with mental health stakeholders, and without exception, these stakeholders have identified Canberra’s mental health workforce crisis as the number one challenge facing Canberra’s mental health system.

“After 20 years of recognised need in the ACT, the ACT Labor Greens Governments single A4 page plan is just not good enough,” Mr Cocks said.

“It is astounding, that the best response the Minister could come up with is the promise to have another go, with another plan to be put forward next year.

“Making sure we have an adequate and appropriately skilled workforce must be the number one priority for Canberra’s mental health system.

“Right now, too many Canberrans don’t have the supports they need, can’t get access to psychological services, and are being left out in the cold,” Mr Cocks concluded.

Throughout today’s hearing Minister Davidson was unable to defend the Government’s two-decade failure to deliver a mental health workforce strategy, and when questioned over an additional six-month delay, the minister could only respond that:

“Time is a very abstract concept for me these days, I’m trying to think back to what’s happened between March and now and there has been quite a lot happening and the Assembly as you know has been extremely busy”.