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A new programme hopes to meet the needs of increasing demands in mental health.

An opportunity for staff in the sector to upskill with a mental health and addiction support qualification aims to give a boost to the Southern region’s mental health sector.

Mental health and disability services provider Pact and training organisation Careerforce are supporting staff to upskill through a workplace-based training programme, with four people in the south already signed up.

Pact’s general manager for mental health services in the Southern region Thomas Cardy said training was always important to the organisation and there was always a need for it.

“There is always a need for an increase of investment in community services like Pact to support workforce development, but also widen the availability of services in the region cities, town and rural areas,” Cardy said.

Pact’s general manager for mental health services in the Southern region Thomas Cardy.

Finding staff was also difficult in rural areas, but Cardy said Pact was lucky to have a stable long-standing workforce with some staff who had been with the organisation for more than 20 years.

Supporting staff to gain a qualification would make recruiting and finding staff easier for the sector in the future, Cardy said.

Nine support workers working in mental health and addictions, three in Balclutha, one in Invercargill, four on the West Coast and one in Wellington, will complete the New Zealand Apprenticeship in Mental Health and Addiction Support in what Cardy called a “pilot programme”.

Apprentices learn tools and strategies to support their clients’ autonomy, identify goals, address barriers and achieve aspirations.

“We help people get out there and learn to live with disability or recover from mental health issues,” Cardy said.

“If our people complete the training and we are happy with it, then we will probably roll this out to the wider workforce.”

The programme is funded by a grant which covered the costs of enrolling staff into the apprenticeship, but Cardy did not know how long it would last.

Cardy said he was convinced the Southern District Health Board would “come to the party” to address any funding issues, but he did not want to comment on what funding the organisation currently had or needed.

However, several unions said the Government’s Budget claim of a $224 million mental health boost was wrong, with the real increase only worth about $18m.

“The implications of the recent equal pay case and the wider implications for the mental health and addictions sector will be considerable over the next year,” Cardy said.

“The fact that mental health support workers were excluded from the legislation means the sector may risk being faced with significant recruitment and financial sustainability challenges.”

Ministry workforce strategy and policy manager Paul Watson Dr Paul Watson said Careerforce managed funding of about $1.2 m per year for the Mental Health Support Workers Grant.

The Budget 2017 represented significant additional investment in mental health services, and recognised there were other agencies involved in managing individuals with mental health and additional resource in these areas would benefit mental health services, he said.

– Stuff

REBECCA MOORE

Last updated 13:23, June 11 2017

This article first appeared in Stuff Nation on 11 June 2017.