The Victorian government has announced that it will deliver more jobs as well as fairer pay and conditions for public sector mental health workers, in response to the Royal Commission into the state’s Mental Health System.
In a statement on Wednesday, Victorian mental health minister James Merlino said an in-principle enterprise agreement would address recruitment and retention issues for the sector, with money set aside to add 800 more full-time equivalent jobs over the next four years. Another $3 million will go towards extra staffing in secure extended care units and aged services.
The state government invested a record $3.8 billion in its 2021-22 budget as part of its initial response to the recommendations of the royal commission.
“Our mental health system is nothing without the passionate, dedicated people who work on the frontline to support Victorians every day – and we’re so proud to have secured a new deal with fair pay and conditions,” Merlino said.
Of those new employees the state government wants to attract to the sector, a career structure plan will also be applied to help build a ‘lived experience workforce’ — placing qualified staff with real experience of the mental health system to work in it, and ensure their views help guide the future direction of service delivery in Victoria.
The new deal will also deliver ‘greater equality’ for nurses who specialise in mental health care, to ensure that they receive pay at parity with their general nurse counterparts. The government said it would give mental health nurses a 2% pay rise every year for the first three years, in line with VPS wages policy, and another 1.5% rise in year four.
Other mental health workers will receive an increase and retention payments in line with Royal Commission recommendations.
“As we begin the task of rebuilding our state’s mental health services, the first step is making sure we have an agile, well-supported workforce to adapt to these changes and deliver better care than ever before,” the minister said.
New leadership positions will also be created under the new enterprise agreement, Merlino added, with the allocation of a designated mental health director of nursing for each mental health service, clinical educators for parent and infant units, plus more clinical resources in high dependency units.
The state government’s reforms to the mental health workforce have also been considered through a gendered lens, with an additional four weeks parental leave for new parents who are primary carers, and an extra one week for secondary carers. Superannuation will be paid on all forms of parental leave and access to compassionate leave for those who lose a pregnancy under 20 weeks’ gestation, the government said.