Australia’s mental health and aged care systems will receive record funding in the federal budget, with billions to be spent on the ailing sectors.
Experts have warned the packages may only begin to gain ground back after years of funding shortfalls.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will hand down his third budget on 11 May, with significant spending expected across government services.
The spending will sit alongside funding for major infrastructure projects, skills training, and the COVID-19 health response.
“Tonight’s budget will see record commitments on essential services, disability support, mental health, aged care, and women’s safety,” Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra.
“And tonight’s budget will lay out the Morrison government’s economic plan to secure Australia’s recovery.”
An extra $500 million is expected to be pumped into the mental health sector each year, most of which will be delivered through commonwealth-run primary health networks.
The funding will be aimed at delivering services to regional and disadvantaged areas with significant mental health needs and areas that faced most adversary by fires, floods, COVID-19 restrictions, and high rates of youth unemployment.
National Mental Health Commission Chief Executive Christine Morgan, who serves as a suicide prevention advisor to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, said that early intervention, service integration, and access were key.
“We need to be able to intervene a lot earlier in illness, in episode and in life,” she told ABC radio.
Leading psychiatrist Patrick McGorry said the federal government was spending $3.6 billion annually on an issue that affected five million Australians every year.
“No governments anywhere in the world have understood the scale of the issue.”
The budget is also expected to contain up to $18 billion in additional funding for aged care over the following four years.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said it would be a fundamental line in the sand after a royal commission report called for radical changes across the entire system.
Key targets of the package include building a better-paid workforce and boosting training, with more money set aside to help train the unemployed.
Frydenberg is expected to announce a $1 billion extension to the JobTrainer program, which offers free or low-fee courses for young and unemployed people.
The budget could also dictate younger Australians take up the training programs or risk losing income support through programs such as Youth Allowance.
The government is also preparing to cancel a dud hiring credits scheme for young people, which supported just 1100 of the 450,000 jobs it intended to create.
The treasurer will spend another $500 million in attempts to capture international businesses and talent.
The task will be difficult as the international border remains closed, but the government remains determined to attract the best and brightest to drive economic recovery.
The package includes plans to encourage employee share schemes and simplify tax residency rules in attracting workers and businesses to Australia.
Low-income earners, of which many are women, will receive compulsory superannuation for the first time in their lives.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese criticised the government for lacking a plan to address record low wages growth, unemployment, and underemployment.
Albanese said the coalition was pushing the nation’s debt towards $1 trillion and lacked economic vision.
The government will also unveil major funding for a women’s health and financial security package, including domestic violence funding doubling to $680 million and $354 million over four years for health.
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