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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Gillard Government cuts to Better Access harming Australians

By Darren Stones

The Gillard Government's shambolic method of tinkering with mental health policy is stigmatising. Their funding cuts to the Better Access scheme are now causing harm to people who require psychological treatments. Many of Australia's most vulnerable and disadvantaged people are now in distress due to the Gillard Government's lack of decency and empathy.

From January 1, 2013, Medicare-subsidised sessions under the Better Access scheme will be slashed from a maximum of 16 sessions to just 10. The Gillard Government has already implemented an ill-conceived cut from 18 sessions to 16 during 2012.

I know people who do not have any Better Access sessions left for the remainder of 2012, and this is having a detrimental affect on their health. I am widely connected with people who use our mental health system, and it is saddening to know that people are hurting.

As someone who used the Better Access scheme from 2009-2011, I believe the Gillard Government is generally out of touch regarding what Australians require to improve their mental health. Having experienced a mental breakdown in the Centrelink office at Broadmeadows, Victoria in 2009, I know too well that 10 sessions of psychological treatment in a calendar year is inadequate to treat a mental breakdown.

The Better Access scheme provides people with an opportunity to access affordable psychological treatments. However, the Gillard Government does not comprehend that people want choice when it comes to choosing a health professional. Many people choose psychological therapy as a treatment option because it helps stabilise their mental health and assist in their recovery. Mental health consumers are well placed to know what treatments work for them, and they don't need the Gillard Government dictating to them as to what is appropriate treatment.

Further ill-conceived cuts to the Better Access scheme have real potential to harm more Australians. The Gillard Government now needs to implement a sensible mental health policy where at least 18-20 sessions per calendar year is available because it will give Australians hope of making a recovery from their conditions.

The Gillard Government needs to understand that its vicious cuts to the Better Access scheme are a severe and retrograde move for our nation. The challenge for Julia Gillard and all federal politicians is that they need to act now in the best interests of all Australians.

If it wasn't for the Better Access scheme as I experienced it during 2009-2011, I don't know where I would be. I hope that all Australians will be given the opportunity to access at least 18-20 sessions per calendar year under Better Access scheme from January 1, 2013.

The Gillard Government now needs to demonstrate to Australians that it has the capacity to be decent and empathetic. "It's time" that the Gillard Government stopped stigmatising Australians.

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Darren Stones