Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Mr FERGUSON
Do you agree that, despite the Budget's extra allocation of $2.4 million over four years, mental health services for young Tasmanians remain the most poorly resourced in the country?
Do you agree that young Tasmanians suffering mental ill health are being largely shut out by a system which is almost criminally under-resourced? Are you aware that the child and adolescent mental health services psychiatrist, Fiona Wagg, told an inquest into six youth suicides that staffing is less than one-third of what it should be, and that the service had been further eroded by your budget saving strategies in last year's state Budget?
How many extra staff with the necessary clinical expertise will $600 000 a year buy? Do you agree it still will not bring the service up to anywhere near the level of resourcing it needs? Isn't the extra money for adolescent mental health announced in this year's Budget barely bringing the service back up to the level of funding it had before you became Minister? Isn't it just an inadequate patch-up job, a bit of smoke and mirrors, that will tragically and unfairly do too little to help Tasmania's vulnerable children and adolescents?
Madam Speaker, I thank the Member for Denison for the question. The Government is very pleased to be delivering substantial additional resourcing for child and adolescent mental health services in Tasmania.
Ms O'Connor - What did you cut?
Mr FERGUSON - By interjection I note the Member is asking me what we cut out of those services last year. Absolutely nothing. This Government is investing in this area. There can be no disagreement from the Member that we are investing additional resources in this area. What the Member may not be aware of -
Opposition members interjecting.
Madam SPEAKER - Order. The Minister has been asked a question; he will be given an opportunity to answer that question.
Mr FERGUSON - The Member may not be aware this has been an area of chronic, longstanding underfunding. Before I fully answer the question, here is a question for Ms O'Connor. What were you doing in Cabinet over those last four years, when I know that this service was crying out for more support from the Government, and did not get that support? It has been chronically underfunded. Even HACSU, no friend of the Liberal Party, has made it quite clear that it lays a lot of blame at the feet of the former Government, which did nothing to support those young vulnerable people who needed care and support but did not get it.
Since last year's Budget, in response to what I became increasingly aware of about the massive challenges being faced, particularly at Clare House in the south, the Department and I provided $200 000 recurrently. That was the first major uplift in funding which that service has received in many years. I spoke to a service provider in CAMHS over the weekend who told me it was probably for the first time in 10 years that they had seen that kind of additional resourcing.
The Budget provides $2.4 million; it is $600 000 per year, and in total $800 000 per year, thanks to the Treasurer and the Premier and the Liberal majority Government. That is recurrent and a substantial uplift.
Ms O'Connor interjecting.
Mr FERGUSON - I want to let Ms O'Connor know the response I got from a person who works in the service - they are delighted. They said to me it is like the first time someone has listened for many years.
I want to say something else because I am not sure where Ms O'Connor was yesterday. I know Labor gave up on debating the Budget at around 5 o'clock yesterday, but we kept talking about the importance of the Budget. In my reply, I gave considerable detail, and if you reflect on yesterday's debate you will find all the detail you are looking for. I will take the opportunity to say the CAMH service is specifically wanting to target younger people, even infants, because they believe there can be massive improvements long-term over many years if they can target even at maternal and infant stage. Many of the resources are going to be provided to rebuild a better service there. They are looking at new and innovative models of care.
I say to every member of this House that this Government is very pleased to be delivering this important additional investment in our young people. They have been ignored and overlooked. I know there have been Budget cases presented that have been ignored by the previous Government and we are delighted to provide this additional investment in Tasmania's young people.