Prime Minister Scott Morrison has detailed a $1.1 billion health package, providing support for mental health, domestic violence, Telehealth, and food relief.
“As we battle coronavirus on both the health and economic fronts with significant support packages in place and more to come, I am very aware many Australians are understandably anxious, stressed and fearful about the impacts of coronavirus and what it brings,” said the Prime Minister.
“We are focused on saving lives and saving livelihoods and this new support package will provide much needed care and help to so many Australians facing hardship at no fault of their own.
“We will get through this crisis by staying together, by supporting each other and ensuring that no Australian, even though we have to be isolated, should have to go through this alone.”
According to the Prime Minister, the COVID-19 case increases in Australia have fallen from around 25-30 percent to 13-15 percent. This is still a strong increase rate but the measures that have been taken are having an impact on managing the spread of the virus.
Health Minister Greg Hunt stated there are positive early signs of flattening the curve, and reported 209,000 tests have been completed in Australia.
A further National Cabinet meeting will take place later today.
Coronavirus Offical App & WhatsApp Update Feature
The official Coronavirus app is now available via the Apple App Store. The app provides further resources, and is an official government source of advice and information.
A new WhatsApp feature is also now available to provide timely information to Australians. Visit aus.gov.au/whatsapp.
Mental Health Support
An initial $74 million will be provided to support the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians. The focus is on preventative care and providing treatment for any who need it. This covers vulnerable Australians, frontline workers, and all Australians.
Breakdown of funding:
- $10 million provided to created a dedicated Coronavirus wellbeing support line, to be delivered by Beyond Blue. The Government welcomes an additional $5 million contribution from Medibank to Beyond Blue to support this vital initiative.
- $14 million to bolster the capacity of mental health support providers who have experienced an unprecedented surge in call volumes. This includes $5 million for Lifeline and $2 million for Kids Helpline. The funding will also bolster other existing services, including digital peer-support to people with urgent, severe and complex mental illness who may be experiencing additional distress at this time.
- Health workers, who will be at the frontline of the pandemic, will receive dedicated mental health support through digital platforms developed to provide advice, social support, assistance in managing stress and anxiety, and more in-depth treatment without having to attend in-person sessions.
- To ensure that older Australians in aged care are not socially isolated despite visiting restrictions, $10 million will be provided to the Community Visitors Scheme. The funding will mean extra staff to train volunteer visitors, who will connect with older people in aged care online and by phone, and assist older Australians keep in touch with the community and loved ones.
- To help younger Australians stay on track in their education and training and prepare them for the workforce, $6.75 million will be provided to deliver the headspace digital work and study service and eheadspace. Mentors and headspace vocational specialists working in an integrated team will offer technical and life skills, providing a comprehensive digital support service for all young Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic and after.
- For Indigenous Australians, whose elders and communities are particularly vulnerable to the impacts coronavirus, Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia will develop culturally appropriate mental health and wellbeing resources. These will be available and easily accessible across a range of platforms, including print, podcast, NITV, Indigenous print media and internet/social media platforms.
- $28.3 million will be utilised to continue to deliver psychosocial support to Commonwealth community mental health clients for a further 12 months. This will allow additional time for people with severe and complex mental illness to complete their applications and testing for support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Health Minister Greg Hunt stated including the Telehealth services, around $300 million will be going towards mental health.
General Practitioners will be able to provide mental healthcare plans over the phone, and psychologist and psychiatrists will be able to provide counselling services.
$669 million of the package will go towards the radical transformation of Australian health services and the universal availability of Telehealth in Australia.
Australians will be able to access support in their own home via phone or video conferencing to access GP services, specialist services, and counselling services.
This will take pressure off hospitals and emergency departments and allow people to access essential health services in their home, while supporting self-isolation and quarantine policies.
The GP bulk billing incentive will be doubled for GPs and an incentive payment will be established to ensure practices stay open to provide face to face services for those who need it.
The new arrangements will be in place until 30 September 2020, when they will be reviewed in consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health Minister Greg Hunt stated a decade’s worth of work has been done in a “matter of days.”
Domestic Violence Support
An initial $150 million will be provided to support Australians experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence.
Google has seen an increase of 75 percent in searches for domestic violence help, with some services are already reporting an increase in demand.
The funding will boost programs under the National Plan including:
- Counselling support for families affected by, or at risk of experiencing, domestic and family violence including men’s behaviour change programs which will provide a short, medium and longer term response to support men.
- 1800RESPECT, the national domestic, family and sexual violence counselling service, which already answers around 160,000 calls a year.
- Mensline Australia, the national counselling service for men that provides support for emotional health and relationship concerns for men affected by or considering using violence.
- Trafficked People Program to support particularly vulnerable cohorts such as victims of human trafficking, forced marriage, slavery and slavery-like practices.
- Support programs for women and children experiencing violence to protect themselves to stay in their homes, or a home of their choice, when it is safe to do so.
A new public communication campaign will be rolled out to support those experiencing domestic violence over this period and to ensure those affected know where they can seek help.
Minister Payne and Minister Ruston will convene a COAG Women’s Safety Council meeting on Monday to discuss with the states and territories how to best deliver this funding to support local responses to this issue.
Food Relief Funding
An additional $200 million will be provided to support charities and other community organisations which provide emergency and food relief as demand surges as a result of coronavirus.
Given the unprecedented nature of the situation, emergency relief services are being heavily relied upon and this demand will increase.
The Community Support Package will provide flexible funding to boost support to services where demand is quickly increasing, including:
- Emergency Relief which will help vulnerable Australians who need assistance with bills, food, clothing or petrol and increase and retain workforce capacity including volunteers.
- Assistance for food relief organisations to source additional food and transport for emergency relief service providers, and rebuild workforce capacity.
- Immediately scale-up services through the National Debt Helpline — which is often the first point of contact for people experiencing financial difficulties, and to support one-on-one tele-financial counselling.
- Creating a short-form Financial Counselling course through Financial Counselling Australia to train new financial counsellors to boost the workforce, potentially providing hundreds of new jobs.
- Expanding access to safe, affordable financial products through the No Interest Loan Scheme which provides an immediate financial relief alternative to other high-risk, high-interest products such as credit cards and payday loans.
More info to come.
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