Thursday, 14 May 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Youth Mental Health
My question is to the Minister for Youth and Sport, Senator Colbeck. Can the minister outline what the Morrison coalition government is doing to support young Australians as they face the mental health challenges of the coronavirus pandemic?
I thank Senator Smith for his question. We know that a significant number of young Australians are experiencing the mental health impacts of coronavirus. Last week mental health organisation Reach Out revealed that unprecedented numbers of young people have sought mental health support during the COVID-19 pandemic so far, with services increasing by 50 per cent since this time last year.
Our government is determined to ensure that mental health support is available and accessible for every young Australian in Australia. We know that mental health doesn't discriminate. The message I want all Australians, particularly young Australians, to hear is that support and help is available. That's why on 29 March the Prime Minister announced a $1.1 billion package that included a boost for mental health services during COVID-19. It included $10 million towards a dedicated coronavirus wellbeing support line delivered by Beyond Blue, which commenced on 6 April; $6.8 million to help young Australians with their education and training and prepare them for the workforce by expanding the headspace digital work and study service to provide employment study support; and funding to enhance the Find a Psychologist website to help all Australians, including our youth, better locate psychologist and telehealth services available to them.
In addition, yesterday Minister Hunt announced a new deputy commissioner of health solely dedicated to mental health. This exemplifies our government's strong support for and commitment to tackle the issue of mental health in this country. Earlier in the year we also announced $76 million in mental health packages to support Australians affected by the bushfires. We continue to support young Australians as they go through these challenges.
I'm sure everyone in the Senate chamber will acknowledge the great work that Reach Out does, as do other mental health service providers. Minister, what support is the government providing directly to young Australians during these challenging times?
During question time today and earlier, we heard, as the unemployment figures were released, the very sobering job figures we are experiencing as we move through the COVID-19 crisis. In the youth sense, the figures are up from 11.6 per cent to 13.8 per cent. That's why the government has moved to temporarily expand eligibility for income support payments and establish a new time-limited coronavirus supplement. This will be paid both to existing and new recipients of income support programs, including the jobseeker payment and youth allowance amongst others. Many of these payments will be primarily directed towards young Australians. The JobKeeper payments currently support almost 5.5 million employees to stay connected to their employer. As of last week we are supporting almost 13,000 employers to retain 22,000 young apprentices through a wage subsidy.
Firstly, can I thank all young Australians for their efforts to date in working with health authorities, state governments and the Australian government to flatten the curve. Our actions have slowed the spread of coronavirus and made a huge impact on our capacity to start bringing the economy back. I encourage all young Australians to download the COVIDSafe app. It's our capacity to track, our capacity to trace and our capacity to test that will assist state governments and the Australian government to open the economy back up, provide opportunities for jobs and assist all young Australians to return to the things that they love, whether it be sport, arts or music. I urge all young Australians to join the rest of us who have downloaded the COVIDSafe app to assist—