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HACSU holds deep concerns for the implementation of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Act


From tomorrow, the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act (the Act) will be in force in Victoria. Every step of the way, the Health and Community Services Union and our members have offered feedback, provided support to the implementation team, and have raised our deep concerns with members of parliament in relation to the delay in the provision of information and resources and speed in which this Act has been rolled out.  

It is the position of the Health and Community Services Union and its members that the Victorian mental health sector is nowhere near ready for such a rollout and our concerns have not been heard or acted on.  

There has been woefully inadequate training and resources available to the mental health workforce, hospital administration staff and hospital executives. Each service has only been given one Implementation Lead which is far too few for the enormity of the role and the reform. 

These Implementation Leads were not adequately resourced. Services were not provided the training module resources to load onto local learning management systems for staff until between 1 and 3 weeks before the date of commencement of the Act (depending on the service). HACSU commends the work of the Implementation Leads, who have worked extraordinarily hard to upskill the workforce without adequate information and resourcing. 

Operational issues have plagued the rollout of the reform. The online Mental Health and Wellbeing Act learning modules on MHPOD are not clearly identified for workers if they don’t have access through a hospital learning management system, resulting in many mental health workers not seeing or completing the available modules as they are not readily accessible. Access to the new Act paperwork is difficult as printers that are utilised by area mental health services are overwhelmed. In desperation, services are printing this paperwork themselves in the units.  

Of greatest concern is the late release of the Chief Psychiatrist’s updated guidelines for restrictive intervention following the new Act. These guidelines will only be made available to the public and the mental health workforce this afternoon. This is far too late to allow the workforce and management to familiarize themselves with this document to feel confident in their obligations, competent in providing care in this new environment and importantly, to feel safe when doing so. 

To meet the aspirations of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System (RCVMHS), we need a fully funded workforce plan that will ensure that there are multi-disciplinary teams including lived experience workers to ensure that the right people are there at the right time for consumers, families, carers and supporters. 

HACSU are aware that services are frantically attempting to create their own processes and procedures to manage the changes to protect their staff, due to the lack of clarity and structure from the Department of Health. This will create dangerous inconsistencies across the sector. 

The mental health workforce require much more time and much more support to learn the intricacies of the new Act, which will allow them to implement it correctly and in the safest possible manner.  

The Royal Commission’s aspirations simply do not match reality of the issues faced by the mental health workforce.  

Quotes attributable to Paul Healey, HACSU State Secretary 

“Our members are committed and support the changes in the mental health sector and the Act but without the staffing, funding and time their aspiration will not meet reality.” 

“The Royal Commission has set this timeline, but it has not taken into account that the sector and the workforce is nowhere near ready for such reforms.” 

Media Contact: Stephanie Thuesen, 0436 363 612