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Estimates: Impacts of Health Department funding cuts on mental health service delivery

Estimates & Committees
Penny Wright 20 Nov 2013

Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee 
Health Department 

20 November, 2013

Senator WRIGHT: What cuts to funding or resources which will have an impact on mental health service delivery are planned by the department this financial year?

Prof. Halton: I cannot answer that question, because the issue in respect of service delivery goes to funding by government. In terms of departmental activities, the department will be structured in a way that enables it to deliver on whatever the government's priorities are. That is what we do.

Senator WRIGHT: Will there be staffing reductions this year?

Prof. Halton: We did canvass this at some considerable length this morning, Senator.

Senator WRIGHT: I missed that. I apologise. I can go back and look at those answers, but there will be staffing reductions. I am interested in how many staff the department employs whose roles relate in any way to mental health.

Prof. Halton: 'In any way to mental health'—I do not think we can actually classify people in that way.

Senator WRIGHT: Do you think you could try? Obviously you might need to take this on notice, but I think you can understand what I might be trying to ascertain here. I wonder if there is anything, any helpful approach, that you could take to assist. It may be impossible in a sense, but on the other hand it may not be impossible to determine some means of knowing whether people in the health department are employed in relation to mental health.

Prof. Halton: It is a bit like: how long is a piece of string? We know the people who are specifically dedicated to working in these areas. That is a relatively easy number to come up with. The truth of the matter is: what do you do? Do you include 0.1 of my time? Do you include zero point whatever of Mr Butt's time? Do we apportion a proportion of corporate support? I just genuinely think it is very difficult. Directly attributed resource, certainly, in Ms Campion's area—I am happy to provide you with that.

Senator WRIGHT: Perhaps that is the best we can do at this stage.

Prof. Halton: Yes, I think that would be the right thing.

Senator WRIGHT: Thank you for that. Are there any programs, administered under the previous government, that can be identified at this stage that the department will not continue to fund or that are considered not to constitute a good use of resources?

Prof. Halton: The now government from opposition did publish a list of spending and savings initiatives, which I do not believe affect any of these areas. Beyond that, there is no other information I can provide you, because we do not have any other decisions. So that is what I would direct you to.

Senator WRIGHT: You do not have any other decisions that you can talk about, or are there no decisions that have been made yet that you are aware of?

Prof. Halton: The latter.

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