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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 3802


(Question No.948)

Ms Sharkie asked the Minister for Health, in writing, on 26 March 2018:

(1) In respect of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) Report Card 2018: The Wellbeing of Young Australians, will he (a) explain why the proportion of children aged 2 who are fully immunised fell from 92.7 per cent in 2008 to 90.5 per cent in 2017, and (b) advise what steps the Government is taking to reverse this trend. (2) Will he (a) explain why, according to ARACY, the percentage of Australians aged 18 to 24 suffering from high or very high psychological distress rose from 11.8 per cent in 2011 to 15.4 per cent in 2014-15, and (b) advise what steps the Government is taking to reverse this trend.

Mr Hunt : The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) (a) and (b)

Immunisation rates for Australians at 5 years of age are amongst the highest in the world with 94 per cent of all five year old children and 96.2 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children fully immunised.

The recent addition of vaccines to the National Immunisation Program Schedule and changes made to the definition of 'fully immunised' have resulted in a decrease in reported coverage rates for two year olds:

in response to increasing rates of whooping cough amongst young children, the Australian Government introduced an additional dose of whooping cough vaccine for all children aged 18 months in March 2016; and

based on the advice of experts, Australia brought forward the second dose of measles, mumps and rubella to 18 months (down from 4 years) in 2013.

To make sure we have accurate statistics, children must have both of these vaccines to be counted as 'fully immunised' at two years of age.

In other words, adding new vaccines onto the National Immunisation Program schedule has resulted in a decrease in coverage rates for two year olds, as children who would have previously been considered fully immunised at that age must now receive the additional vaccinations to be recorded as fully immunised.

This situation resolves over time as the changes become embedded and children receive all the vaccines at the relevant vaccination schedule point.

High coverage rates at 12 months of age (currently 94 per cent) and five years of age highlight that while the changes to calculating 'fully immunised' at 2 years of age have impacted immunisation coverage rates, overall, parents are committed to immunisation and the service delivery system is working well.

The Government is a strong supporter of immunisation and has committed around $460 million in 2017-18 for vaccines and activities to support immunisation uptake.

The Government is taking action to reach national immunisation coverage rates of 95 per cent including:

a three year, $5.5 million immunisation education campaign called 'Get the Facts' to provide evidence-based information about immunisation to expectant parents and those with children aged five years and under;

the 'No Jab, No Pay' policy which ensures that children fully meet immunisation requirements before families can access certain government-funded family payments;

working with states and territories to implement a nationally consistent 'No Jab, No Play' policy, so that only those children meeting immunisation requirements are able to attend child care and pre-school services; and

performance-based funding agreements with States and Territories linked to achieving 95 per cent immunisation rates for children five years of age, including targeted at-risk groups.

(2) (a) There are a number of reasons why the percentage of Australians aged 18 to 24 suffering from high or very high psychological distress could have risen from 2011 to 2014-15. Heightened awareness of mental health and reduced stigma may have contributed to this rise and young people may also be more concerned about personal issues such as coping with stress and body image, which also have links to mental health.

(2) (b) To reverse this trend, the Government continues to invest in initiatives and programs that support the mental health of young people.

Headspace network

The Government funds Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to commission the headspace network, which aims to improve access for young people aged 12 to 25 years who have, or who are at risk of, mental illness. The headspace program provides holistic care for young people in four key areas — mental health, physical health, substance use and vocational support.

Under the Strengthening Mental Health Care in Australia measure, the Government has committed to establishing an additional ten new headspace services, which will bring the overall total to 110 by 2019.

Early Psychosis Youth Services

The Early Psychosis Youth Services (EPYS) program is implemented through the existing headspace network in six sites across Australia - Western Sydney, South East Queensland, North Perth, South East Melbourne, the Northern Territory and South Australia.

The EPYS program provides integrated early intervention treatment and intensive support to young people aged 12 to 25 years who are at ultra-high risk of, or are experiencing, a first episode psychosis. It is based on the Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention model, a specialist early intervention in psychosis model, developed by Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health.

The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health

Orygen has been funded since 2014 to operate the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health (the Centre) to provide national leadership for youth mental health.

The Centre provides advice to Government on improving services to young Australians affected by mental health issues and facilitates the translation and dissemination of research into evidence-based practice and policy. It aims to enhance innovation, workforce development and to investigate the outcomes of enhanced mental health services.

National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health

In response to the National Mental Health Commission's Review of Mental Health Programs and Services, the Government is working across portfolios to join up child and youth mental health programs to improve mental health outcomes for children and young people, commencing with the early years and going through to adolescence. From August 2018, beyondblue will deliver a single integrated end to end school based mental health program which will support promotion and prevention activity and help to build resilience skills within children and young people.

Launched in November 2017, the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health is assisting clinical and nonclinical professionals and services who work with children, to identify, support and refer children at risk and to promote resilience building. This initiative particularly supports providers working with children who would benefit from early intervention, including those who have experienced trauma, and will support professionals in working with parents and families of these children.

Mental health digital services

A range of telephone and digital services can be accessed for free or at very low cost by young people. In addition to the headspace network, eheadspace delivers the headspace model of services through free, confidential and anonymous telephone and web-based support services to young people aged 12 to 25 years with, or at risk of developing, mild to moderate mental illness.

KidsHelpline provides counselling and information for young people across a wide range of issues, including mental health, alcohol and other drug issues, abuse, bullying or violence, eating disorders and a range of associated problems such as relationship difficulties, loneliness and homelessness. ReachOut Australia provides online mental health support, tools and information for young people, parents and schools across a range of issues including bullying, depression, exam stress and substance abuse. These services can be accessed via the Government's recently launched Head to Health website, which aims to help people more easily access information, advice and digital mental health treatment options, and non-digital options if considered more appropriate to need.

Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule initiative

Under the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule(Better Access) initiative, Medicare rebates are available for up to 10 individual and 10 group allied mental health services per calendar year for patients of any age with an assessed mental health disorder who are referred:

by a paediatrician;

by a GP managing the patient under a GP Mental Health Treatment Plan;

under a referred psychiatrist assessment and management plan; or

by a psychiatrist.

The Better Access initiative was introduced to address low treatment rates for common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety, particularly presentations of mild to moderate severity, where short-term evidence-based interventions are most likely to be useful. From 1 November 2017, up to seven of the 10 Better Access mental health consultations can be provided through online channels if one of the first four sessions is delivered through a face-to-face consultation.

Other supports commissioned by Primary Health Networks

PHNs deliver mental health and suicide prevention services for people of all ages in underserviced and hard to reach groups. Details on specific mental health services commissioned by PHNs for young people in their regions are available on individual PHN websites.