Mental health for primary schoolers scaled up in VIC Budget 2023

By 2026, every school in Victoria will employ a Mental Health and Wellbeing Leader to implement a whole-school approach to wellbeing, Minister for Education Natalie Hutchins has promised in an announcement this week that the Mental Health in Primary Schools program will be scaled up across the state from next year.

The program received $200 million to be expanded to every single government and low-fee non-government primary school in Victoria.

Hutchins said the funding boost will support individual students, help teachers better identify and support at-risk students, and build relationships and referral pathways to local mental health services.

“Not only are we rolling out mental health and wellbeing leaders in schools – we’re also putting thousands of extra mental health workers in every school and making sure kids have access to a full suite of mental health tools to thrive,” said the Minister.

The program builds on a successful pilot with 100 primary schools across the state. More than 95 per cent of Mental Health and Wellbeing Leaders involved in the pilot said the program improved their school’s capacity to support students’ mental health and wellbeing needs.

The program will be rolled out in stages in the coming years:

  • Term 1, 2023: Barwon, Brimbank Melton, Hume Moreland, Goulburn, and Outer Gippsland.
  • Term 2, 2024: Western Melbourne, Mallee, Ovens Murray, and Southern Melbourne.
  • Term 1, 2025: Wimmera South West, Loddon Campaspe, Outer East Melbourne, and Inner Gippsland.
  • Term 1, 2026: Central Highlands, North East Melbourne, Inner East Melbourne, and Bayside Peninsula.

The Labor Government has invested more than $600 million into mental health in schools alone, with a mental health practitioner already in every single government secondary and specialist school across the state – a year ahead of schedule.

It includes $200 million to establish the Schools Mental Health Fund, which provides all government schools with flexible funding for programs, training and additional staff and delivers on a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

The Labor Government is delivering every single recommendation from the Royal Commission – which highlighted that schools play a critical role in identifying children with mental health and wellbeing challenges who can then be referred to treatment, care and support if needed.

The Victorian Budget 2022/23 also includes $41.3 million to sustain mental health services for schools, including continuation of the LOOKOUT program and headspace initiative.

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