The Albanese Labor Government’s announcement today that they are cutting the additional Medicare-subsidised psychology sessions introduced by the Coalition is completely thoughtless.
As part of our response to support Australians in tough times, the former Coalition Government doubled the number of Medicare-subsidised psychology sessions available through the Better Access initiative from 10 to 20.
Going into the holiday period with a new Covid wave peaking, the cost of living and energy bills sky rocketing, and floods continuing to impact parts of the country, mental health support could not be more important.
But despite the significant pressures still impacting our communities, the Labor Government has decided to slash access to psychology sessions in half.
Shadow Minister for Health and Aged Care, Senator Anne Ruston said, ‘it is staggering that the Albanese Government has decided right now is a good time to rip away additional mental health support from Australians who have been relying on it.”
‘This hits particularly close to my home, where the Riverland of South Australia is currently facing rising flood waters through the Christmas period, at the same time that the Government has slashed access to this critical support,’ Senator Ruston said.
‘Serious mental health issues are often at their highest two to three years after a crisis, pandemic or natural disaster, which is why it is absolutely vital that vulnerable Australians have continued access to the psychology sessions they need.’
“We know the holiday season can be a challenging time for people’s mental health and when they need support the most, the Government has proven they are not willing to provide that support,’ Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Melissa McIntosh MP said.
“Sadly, the Government is sending us down the track of mental health services becoming less and less accessible to millions of Australians,” Mrs McIntosh said.
To rub salt into the wounds of vulnerable Australians, the Minister for Health Mark Butler has even stated that in making this devastating cut, they are ‘improving better access’ to mental health services.
The independent evaluation of the Better Access initiative recommends that ‘the additional 10 sessions should continue to be made available and should be targeted towards those with complex mental health needs.’
The Labor Government needs to stop their irresponsible attacks on the mental health services Australians are relying on and explain why they have gone against Recommendation 12 of the review, and the needs of vulnerable Australians, by cutting this support.