VAGO finds mental health system failing Victorian children

Vulnerable children and youths are being let down by a mental health system that’s in crisis, but reform is years away under the Andrews Labor Government.

A report tabled today from the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) has delivered a scathing assessment of our state’s child and youth mental health sector including that children and adolescents are being unnecessarily admitted to adult mental health beds.

But in a response to VAGO’s 20 recommendations for reform, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said: “implementation of the recommendations will be informed by the outcomes the Royal Commission into Mental Health”.

It means there will be no action for years on problems identified by the VAGO, including:

- Serious problems with the way the sector operates, including clinically unnecessary stays in inpatient mental health wards, and the admission of children and young people to adult mental health beds,

- A failure of specialist child, adolescent and youth mental health services to meet service demand or operate as a coordinated system,

- Nearly 30 instances of unnecessary bed days for patients without a clinical need to be mental health inpatients, totalling 1054 bed days in the past 12 months, and;

- A failure of DHHS to monitor long stays (over 35 days) of young people in the mental health system, despite analysis showing there have been 228 long stays in four health services over three years – 107 of those were children under 18 years.

Our mental health system needs urgent attention and investment but sadly the Auditor-General’s report confirms that, despite numerous plans, the Andrews Labor Government isn’t doing the work needed to fix the crisis.

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy

This report sets out a path for change, highlighting what can be done now to help vulnerable children and youth in Victoria’s mental health system.

The Royal Commission into Mental Health is an important move to deliver long-term change, but Daniel Andrews is using it as a shield to avoid making the changes the sector needs now.

The Andrews Government’s cuts to community and clinical mental health have only worsened the crisis.

There are steps that Daniel Andrews can take now, as recommended by the Auditor General, to better support Victoria’s most vulnerable and fix this broken system. Victorian children and youths simply can’t wait for another report to tell us the mental health system is in crisis.

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