National mental health report 2013

Indicator 21: Proportion of total mental health workforce accounted for by consumer and carer workers

Page last updated: 2013

Key messages:

  • Nationally, in 2010-11, 4.6 per 1,000 (or 0.5%) of the total full-time equivalent (FTE) mental health workforce was accounted for by consumer and carer workers. This represents an increase of 33% since the 2002-03 level of 3.5 FTE per 1,000 (0.3%). This growth is due to an almost fourfold increase in the number of FTE carer workers per 1,000, compared to a slight decrease in FTE consumer workers per 1,000.
  • There is substantial variation across jurisdictions, with the highest proportions in South Australia (6.3 per 1,000 in 2010-11, or 0.6%) and Victoria (6.1 per 1,000, 0.6%), and the lowest rates in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory (0.0 per 1,000, or 0.0%).
Since its inception, the National Mental Health Strategy has promoted the participation of consumers and carers in the planning, delivery and evaluation of mental health services. The availability of paid consumer and carer worker positions is an index of the opportunities available for, and an organisation's commitment to, enabling consumer and carers to influence service delivery. Information about the consumer and carer workforce was presented in Section 2.6 of Part 2, and is reiterated here in the context of Indicator 21.

Information about the mental health workforce, including consumer and carer workers, is available through the National Minimum Data Set (NMDS) - Mental Health Establishments (MHE) collection. The NMOS- MHE defines mental health consumer and carer workers as individuals who are employed by a mental health organisation on a full-time or part- time salaried basis, and who are specifically employed for the expertise developed from their lived experience of mental illness (consumer workers), or their experience as a mental health carer (carers). Consumer and carer workers may work under a range of job titles and undertake a variety of roles, including mental health service planning, policy development, service evaluation, training and education, mentoring, advocacy, liaison, client support and client/peer support (consumer workers) or carer support (carer workers).

This indicator uses the number of consumer and carer workers as its numerator, and the number of direct care clinical staff and consumer and carer workers as its denominator. Figure 65 shows that nationally, in 2010-11, 0.46% of the full-time equivalent (FTE) mental health care workforce was accounted for by consumer and carer workers. Figure 65 also shows that the proportion of consumer and carer workers has increased by one third since the 2002-03 level of 0.35%. This growth is due to an almost fourfold increase in the percentage of carer workers.

There is wide variation between jurisdictions on this indicator. In 2010-11, the jurisdictions with highest proportion of consumer and carer workers were South Australia (0.63% of direct care staff) and Victoria (0.61%); jurisdictions with the lowest proportions were the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Only limited comparisons across jurisdictions can be made regarding change over time, because not all have had consumer and/or carer workers in all years since 2002-03. Of the four jurisdictions with complete time series data, the overall proportion of consumer and carer workers has increased since 2002-03 in South Australia, Queensland and Victoria, but has decreased marginally in New South Wales. As with the national data, the available state and territory data indicated that although consumer workers still outnumber carer workers, the proportion of carer workers is moving in a positive direction and the change in this proportion is of a greater magnitude than that for consumer workers. More detailed jurisdiction­level data is available in Part 4. Top of page

Figure 65: Consumer and carer workers as a proportion of the total mental health care workforce, 2002-03 to 2010-11

Refer to the following table for a text equivalent of Figure 65: Consumer and carer workers as a proportion of the total mental health care workforce, 2002-03 to 2010-11

Text version of figure 65

Consumer workers (%)Carer workers (%)
2002-03 End 2nd plan
0.30
0.05
2003-04
0.32
0.05
2004-05
0.29
0.07
2005-06
0.30
0.07
2006-07
0.27
0.11
2007-08 End 3rd plan
0.29
0.12
2008-09
0.28
0.13
2009-10
0.28
0.16
2010-11 Mid 4th plan
0.28
0.18