Mental health recommendations regarding school refusals

The Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Melissa McIntosh MP, welcomes the recommendations of the Senate’s Education and Employment References Committee inquiry report into ‘The national trend of school refusal and related matters.’

The Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Melissa McIntosh MP, welcomes the recommendations of the Senate’s Education and Employment References Committee inquiry report into ‘The national trend of school refusal and related matters.’

It has key mental health recommendations, specifically:

  • Recommendation 3 discusses the need for state and territory governments to review child health and development screenings to improve early identification of autism, ADHD, special learning disorders and anxiety disorders.
  • Recommendation 6 outlines the need for the development of a national action plan for school refusal which includes health professionals, those with lived experience, who are neurodivergent and have mental health challenges.
  • Recommendation 7 wants the Australian Government to work with state and territory governments to identify ways to improve awareness and understanding of school refusal within the health sector, including psychiatry and psychology.
  • Recommendation 9 outlines the support for development of trauma-informed practices in schools by state and territory education authorities and the non-government school sector.
  • Recommendation 13 wants the Australian Government to work with its state and territory counterparts to explore funding sources for an independent support network for families and schools going through school refusal. 
  • Recommendation 14 wants to Australian Government to investigate increasing the number of subsidised mental health care visits for students experiencing school refusal.

Mrs McIntosh is calling on the Albanese Labor Government to implement these key findings now. 

She notes the ‘additional comments’ in the report provided by Labor senators regarding the Government’s support for particular mental health programs listed. These are supported by the Coalition. 

Further, Labor senators note they support independent evaluations to determine the provision of mental health services. This is despite Recommendation 12 of the Evaluation of Better Access which stated the additional 10 Medicare-subsidised psychology sessions that the Albanese Labor Government cut should have remained, particularly for those with complex mental health needs. 

Mrs McIntosh said, “if this Labor Government had not gone against the advice of its own Better Access evaluation, by halving the Medicare-subsidised psychology sessions, then children and youth suffering from school refusal would be able to access more services right now.

“The inquiry found that almost all parents who made a submission had sought assistance from mental health professionals or paediatricians.

“The report notes school refusal stresses were causing impacts on children’s mental health. It also found parents were going without mental health support due to a need to support their family’s essential needs instead.

“Statistics presented to the inquiry demonstrate students with mental health concerns can be up to three years behind their peers. The addition of school refusal would compound this, and we need urgent action from the Government to address this concerning issue.”

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