Page 478 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 23 March 2022

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high-level direction to the ACT government and the broader mental health sector on future workforce initiatives.

The strategy will outline the shared objectives of the sector, the values and principles that should underpin workforce initiatives and the desired outcomes. The strategy will also identify priority areas for reform, including data-driven planning, monitoring and evaluation; attraction, recruitment and retention; education, training, research and innovation; and developing and embedding the lived experience workforce.

The release of this strategy will be the first of a series of steps towards driving change and addressing some of the persistent challenges facing the ACT mental health workforce. What this framework will provide is the strategic direction to coordinate efforts across the ACT government and to bring us together under a shared purpose and direction.

The approach will allow us to identify the current strengths of the system, the pressure points and where there are existing gaps to inform where our future efforts and investments should be. It is important that we recognise the valuable contributions made by workers across the full spectrum of care, from the acute end through to the community-managed sector.

We also need to recognise that the workforce needs to be supported to continue to deliver a high standard of mental health care. This will be achieved through enabling opportunities for education, training and research and innovation to facilitate best practice. These will be considered with the intention of improving the quality of care and outcomes for the community.

The strategy will also recognise the need to promote mental health as an attractive sector to work in and to further develop and build on our strategies for attraction, recruitment and retention. I acknowledge that addressing issues that negatively impact on retention of the mental health workforce will require a focused effort in the areas of mental health worker wellbeing, mental health worker conditions and work satisfaction.

Our workforce has continued to support our community through many challenges over the past two years and it is important that we continue to ensure that their needs are understood and addressed, to maintain our workforce. The strategy will make an explicit commitment towards developing and embedding the lived experience workforce across the ACT mental health system. Research tells us that the inclusion of peer workers can reduce the use of emergency services and hospitalisations. It can decrease the admission to inpatient units, lower the length of visits and reduce the rate of readmission.

People who have been supported by a peer support worker reported a greater sense of empowerment and increased sense of independence and normalisation of emotional responses, reduced stigma and a sense of hope for recovery. We have already started to see the benefits of peer workers across a range of sectors, including at the Safe Haven in Belconnen, which we opened at the end of last year.

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