Social Workers and Occupational Therapists Disappearing off the Medicare Radar

It’s not making the news at the moment, but the proposed scrapping of the Medicare rebate for access to social workers and occupational therapists is going to cause a lot of pain to a lot of people. We have friends with Autism and Aspergers Syndrome who benefit from the support these people provide, support that helps these people get into jobs, to live independently or to understand how the world is working. As my own wife puts it:

As a person with autism, learning disabilities and mental health issues from a background of abuse and homelessness, a lot of my skills took years to acquire. I had had a lifetime of labels, Psych and Guidance, medicated by age 9, psychiatry since my teens. But it was a social worker who liased with my psychiatrist to get me – relatively illiterate, innumerate, itinerant and at risk – back into education. The psychiatrist took the credit but it was there I understood the very different jobs these people had in the area of mental health. The psychiatrist could medicate me, but the Social Worker had a more powerful medicine – practical plans and support to change, to save, a life.

When her first husband left after isolating her:

I had spent two years without practicing my self help skills. Agoraphobic, isolated, disoriented, I didn’t need a psychiatrist or medication. I needed practical hands on help in the home and the community to pattern me back into my life skills. That help came in the form of an Occupational Therapist. She helped me get back my strategies and the life skills these supported, helped me get my confidence back and helped me put supports in place for the things I needed help with. Within three months I was running my life as an independent adult, able to commute from home out into the community, even joining in community activities and looking after a cat.

Mental health often flies under the radar of journalists, but it is a significant health issue in Australia. Professor John Mendoza says:

Today, mental ill-health is the leading cause of death for all Australians under 45. More than car accidents. More than binge drinking. More than anything else. It is the leading cause of disability in Australia across all demographics. It affects more than 4 million Australians every year and is estimated to cost the Australian economy about $30 billion each year.

This decision isn’t yet set in stone, it is apparently due to be reviewed later this year but don’t wait for the election, please write and tell the current Health Minister why it is important to keep these services eligible for the Medicare rebate.

Federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon,
1 Thomas Holmes Street
Maribyrnong Vic 3032,
Phone: 9317 7077.
nicola@nicolaroxonmp.com

Thank you.