Community Affairs 23 February 2011
Senator SIEWERT—I wish to go back to the Access to Allied Psychological Services flexible care packages. With respect to the discussion paper, I have had some concerns raised with me about the time that has been allocated for the comments and consultation process with stakeholders. Have you had that reflected back to you as well?
Ms Harman—To revisit the timing of that discussion paper, it was published on 18 January on the department’s website. I believe it was sent to all of our major stakeholders as well. Written submissions closed on 11 February. We are at the tail end of completing the face-to-face consultations which have been quite a comprehensive road show around the country talking to key stakeholders, service providers, NGOs, and allied health professionals, obviously. Due to the Queensland floods, we had to defer the Queensland consultations, so I understand they will take place in mid-March. The consultation process is ongoing, and we are very open to continued comments from the sector.
Senator SIEWERT—Does the sector know that?
Ms Harman—We can make the sector aware of that.
Senator SIEWERT—January is a well-known time for not doing consultation because people are traditionally on holiday. Why that relatively short space of time for consultation?
Ms Harman—We had an implementation plan. We did think about doing it towards the end of 2010, but we also received feedback from the sector that that is also not a good time. We considered on balance that January was a better time. As I said, those consultations are ongoing.
Senator SIEWERT—You just said that you can take on more feedback outside the consultation process. Is that right?
Ms Harman—We would be very happy to receive it.
Ms Krestensen—We did give advice that we had extended input for written submissions to 18 February, but if there is any particular organisation that wanted to provide additional input, given as Ms Harmon has said that we have not yet completed the Brisbane consultations, we would be willing to consider that. We have received over 50 submissions so far. There has been a very broad base and strong interest in the measure.
Senator SIEWERT—Okay, so you are still getting submissions coming in?
Ms Krestensen—We had submissions coming in, certainly up to 18 February. I have not seen any come in after that to date. But, as I said, if there is any particular organisation that wanted still to provide their views, given we are running behind because of the delay with the Queensland consultations, we would be more than open to receive a small number of late submissions.
Senator SIEWERT—I understand that the rollout of the program is going to commence on 1 April.
Ms Krestensen—That is correct—1 April is the date when we will commence the implementation of the program proper. Given the complexity of the program, we will be taking a gradual approach to that and making sure that organisations are well supported to move into this new space.
Senator SIEWERT—In terms of that gradual approach, does that mean having a timetable for rolling it out? Is that what you mean?
Ms Krestensen—To be honest, we really are genuinely waiting to see what the input has been from the sector through the consultation process before finalising our implementation plan. There has been a very rich degree of input on those kinds of questions, particularly from divisions and from the AGP and other
organisations, and from NGOs. I think we do genuinely want to implement the plan and develop a plan that takes their views into account.
Senator SIEWERT—In that case, will there be a bit of to-ing and fro-ing? If you are coming up with some suggestions, is it your plan to go back to some of those key stakeholder groups just to test out your ideas?
Ms Krestensen—That is correct. We will be to-ing and fro-ing back to the ATAPs expert advisory committee and also to-ing and fro-ing to the minister, to share with him the views that are coming out of those expert forums, to get a plan that is workable.
Senator SIEWERT—At the last estimates I asked about funding for the National LGBTI Health Alliance, and we had a discussion at that stage. Where is that up to? I have not circulated this, but it is an estimates answer, so I hope I can get away with it. You said: We have received an initial proposal from them; that did not, at that stage, contain a budget, so we have asked them to go away and provide us with some more information so that we can give that proper consideration. Where is that at? Have you made further contact with the alliance and have you received a funding proposal?
Ms Harman—Yes, we have. We have been in very close contact with the alliance since we last appeared here. We have received a fully costed proposal from them which we have assessed, and we are in the final stages again of contract negotiations with the alliance.
Senator SIEWERT—Thank you. When do you expect that to be finalised?
Ms Harman—It will be contingent on those negotiations. My advice is that I do not think we are too far
off, but I cannot give you a precise date.
Senator SIEWERT—Thank you. I like hearing good news.
Ms Harman—We like giving it.
CHAIR—Which budget does that cover?
Ms Harman—That will come from the National Suicide Prevention program.
Senator SIEWERT—Can I just flip back to the flexible care packages? I apologise for flipping around. In terms of the case coordinators, have you spoken to the Mental Health Council of Australia and also to the Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia who have been working on that particular area for quite a while?
Ms Krestensen—The Mental Health Council of Australia was invited to provide a submission and invited to send representatives to the consultations. I will be honest and say that I have not read the submissions that have been received from them, but we have certainly been speaking very widely to those organisations about their views on this issue.
Senator SIEWERT—Okay, and the Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia?
Ms Krestensen—I will take that one on notice.
Senator SIEWERT—That would be appreciated. I am particularly interested in terms of the coordinator
training program as well. Is that okay?
Ms Krestensen—Certainly. We will take that on notice too.
Senator SIEWERT—We have had discussions, and I know I have asked about carers before, and I am pretty certain I have asked about this one before as well—there has been a lot of talk around a consumer peak body. I understand the scoping study has been finalised quite a while ago, is that correct, looking into the possible establishment of a peak consumers’ organisation?
Ms Harman—That is correct.
Senator SIEWERT—Have you received that scoping study? When did you receive it?
Ms Hart—Yes, the final report was provided to us on 12 February 2010.
Senator SIEWERT—Has that been released?
Ms Hart—No, it has not. I understand that the draft versions of the report are on the consultant’s website,
but the final report has been provided to the minister to inform his consideration about next steps.
Senator SIEWERT—Is there a timetable for the next steps?
Ms Hart—My understanding is that the minister is considering next steps on the report and the
recommendations of the report, and is looking at that in the broader context of mental health reforms. He will be talking to the consumer and carers forum that operates under the Mental Health Council of Australia on 21 March.
Senator SIEWERT—With no actual peak consumer body being in place, is that where the minister consults at the moment to get feedback directly from consumers?
Ms Hart—He has had two avenues there: the first was the 14 consultations that he undertook during November and December, which were quite extensive—and he received a lot of material from those consultations; the other key avenue, as you rightly say, is the Mental Health Council of Australia auspiced national register and forum. That is drawn on quite heavily by both the Commonwealth and states and territories who support it for advice and representation on all sorts of matters across the board in mental health.
Senator SIEWERT—When you say the minister is considering it—and I realise I am now approaching the line—is that also in terms of possible funding options for supporting a consumer peak body?
Ms Hart—That is certainly part and parcel of it. Obviously the results of the report that was done on this set out a range of operations and functions, so implied in that would be consideration about the cost and resources that might be needed to support that.
Senator SIEWERT—I will put the rest of my questions on notice.