National Mental Health Reform 2011-12

Increased economic and social participation by people with mental illness

Page last updated: 06 June 2011

One of the most detrimental features of mental illness is the impact it has on a person’s ability to participate economically and socially through employment and education, and in society more generally. We know that active participation in these aspects of life is important in improving outcomes for people with mental illness.

People with mental illness that are not participating in work and education, or who are disconnected from social relationships can enter a cycle that finds them marginalised and increasingly reliant on income support, with adverse impacts on their mental health.

With the introduction of Job Services Australia (JSA) and Disability Employment Services (DES) there has been an improvement in the service to people with mental illness. In particular, there has been an increase in employment outcomes for people with mental illness participating in DES. As at 31 December 2010 31 per cent of participants in DES had a primary disability of mental illness. Thirty three per cent of the total job placement outcomes achieved in DES were achieved by job seekers whose primary disability was mental illness. Eighty three per cent of JSA job seekers with a mental health condition are in the highest support Streams 3 and 4.

Major new initiatives to improve assistance for job seekers, including those with mental illness, are included in the Building Australia’s Future Workforce Package and reforms to employment services from 2012. These include the expansion of funding for training and flexible supports for job seekers as well as new, expanded wage subsidy programs for job seekers with disability. Measures to improve assistance to those who have been very long term unemployed will greatly advantage job seekers with mental illness who are disproportionately represented in that population. This proposal complements these major initiatives by expanding and building on the current services available, working with employment services providers and employers to raise awareness of the benefits of employing people with mental illness and building on the work already being done to improve outcomes.

Budget Measure: Increased employment participation for people with mental illness - $2.4 million over the next five years plus substantial new investment in the Building Australia’s Future Workforce package

A flexible whole of system partnership approach that includes the involvement of all players is crucial to improvements in overall outcomes for people with multiple disadvantage such as mental illness.

Job seekers with mental illness are supported by significant Government investments in employment services. As at June 2010 there were 96,000 job seekers identified with a mental health condition on the caseloads of these Job Services Australia (JSA) and Disability Employment Services (DES), comprising 10 per cent of the total caseload. Around 85,000 (88 percent) of these job seekers receive the highest levels of support in
employment services – either in Stream 3 or 4 of JSA or through DES. The Government has invested a total of $6.4 billion in employment services over the current contract.

In addition, there is a range of new initiatives for employment services in Building Australia’s Future Workforce package to assist disadvantaged job seekers, and people on the Disability Support Pension (DSP), to participate in the workforce, many of whom have mental illness.

Key initiatives are:
  • New participation requirements for people under the age of 35 years on the DSP with some work capacity to encourage them to engage in work, training and other community activities. DSP recipients with some work capacity will be required to attend regular participation interviews and be referred to employment and other services where appropriate.
  • New rules to allow all people on the DSP to work up to 30 hours a week for two years without affecting DSP qualification.
  • Greater assistance for very long term unemployed, of whom 17 per cent (almost 47,000) are estimated to be job seekers with mental illness. To support new participation requirements for this highly disadvantaged group, a new $1,000 payment will be provided under the Job Services Australia Employment Pathway Fund. This will provide greater assistance for training and support services.
  • A new wage subsidy of around $250 per week for six months will be provided to support entry into employment for very long term unemployed JSA and DES participants. Disability Employment Services will also be able to access a new enhanced wage subsidy providing employers with $3,000 and at a total cost of $11.3 million.
To complement these major reforms the Government will invest an additional $2.4 million over five years on a number of specific measures to further increase the economic and social participation of people with mental illness.

The first component will build the capacity of employment services providers and Department of Human Services staff to identify and assist people with mental illness to gain employment and to better connect them with the appropriate services. Staff will be provided with the skills to develop effective employment strategies for the recruitment of job seekers with mental illness.

Budget Measure: Increased employment participation for people with mental illness - $2.4 million over the next five years plus substantial new investment in the Building Australia’s Future Workforce package - continued

The second component expands on the JobAccess information and advice service to include professionals in mental health who will offer information, mediation and direction to services and program support relating to the employment of people with mental illness. JobAccess will also be funded to further promote their services to employers and the community at large with an enhanced focus on mental illness and the benefits of employing people with disability.

The final component is a review of the Supported Wage System (SWS). The SWS assists people with disability who are not able to work at the same productivity levels as their co-workers due to the effects of their disability. A review of the SWS program will be conducted to assess whether enhancements could be made to SWS to improve its applicability to job seekers with mental illness (particularly having regard to the
episodic nature of the condition).

This suite of measures recognises that people with mental illness often require a more intensive level of support to obtain and stabilise their employment, and that employers, job seekers, employment services providers and mental health services are all involved in achieving sustainable employment outcomes.

Through these and other important 2011-12 Budget measures the Government will help support individuals with mental health participate – economically and socially – in the community.