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PC Inquiry into Mental Health: What does it mean for super and insurance?

The highly anticipated final report from the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health, and National Suicide Prevention Adviser’s Interim Report to the Prime Minister have both recently been published.

Both reports recognise the need for an improved mental health system with a broader approach to non-clinical settings such as workplaces.

A quick snapshot

The general tenor of the reports is that all parts of the system need to better reflect the needs of individuals. Rather than ask people experiencing a mental health condition to fit the ‘system’, the recommendations challenge existing norms and ask how the system can be improved to reflect where we live, learn and work.

The combined outcome of recommendations, if implemented, will help facilitate a coordinated and joined-up matrix of services that enable people to access the care that they need, when they need it and help people stay healthy and recover in their communities.

What does it mean for insurance?

If passed in Parliament, one of the actions recommended will see the life insurance industry able to facilitate psychological treatment services for customers. This is intended to enable better recovery outcomes for members and add to the national data capture and analysis on prevalence, treatment effectiveness and recovery. It will also help this industry have a ‘seat at the policy table’ in health system design and function into the future.

Commenting on the report, Margo Lydon, SuperFriend CEO said: “We fully support the Commission’s aim to refocus and reform the mental health system with a strong preventative lens, highlighting the need for improved data collection, evaluation and transparent reporting.

As stated by the Prime Minister’s National Suicide Prevention Adviser in the Summary of Interim Advice, “It is clear from work to date, that lived experience knowledge must be positioned at the forefront of research, policy and practice. Without it our reforms and service improvements will fall short of what people need and what people deserve”.

As an industry, we need to heed this strong message and more pro-actively engaged and consult members, especially those with a lived experience, in product, policy, service and system design.”

Great news for workplaces

The Productivity Commission recognises work and workplaces are critical in shaping a person’s mental health experiences. The report calls out the need for elevating the importance of psychological health and safety in the workplace, and no-liability clinical treatment for workers' compensation claims. These are two major reforms that will likely lead to better outcomes for workers, with a positive flow on to the superannuation and life insurance industry.

SuperFriend’s recently released its national workplace mental health survey of Australian workers' experiences. The Indicators of a Thriving Workplace Report reinforces that, overall, work and workplaces are a positive contributing factor to a person’s social connections and mental health, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this is not the case in some workplaces, with psychological injury claims through the workers compensation system continuing to rise. We know this is also our experience in this industry too.

A coalition of ideas

It was pleasing to see the alignment of ideas between the two reports. This reflects the extensive consultation process undertaken and the clear findings showing that Australians are united on the need for reform that includes them and puts them front and centre. Furthermore, it reflects the ever-growing unity in the mental health and suicide prevention sectors calling for transformational and coordinated reform.

In addition to those outlined above, some themes that are clear in both reports include:

  • Increased training and development for people in financial services
  • Improved data and evidence delivering impact evaluation
  • Vulnerable population interventions for specific industries and workforces, including addressing workplace disputes and injuries
  • Elevated focus on non-clinical and psychosocial supports and interventions – for better early intervention and prevention

It is clear that the changes recommended are broader than the health system. Building capability and capacity across various settings will be central to successfully improving mental health for all Australians.

For more, see the Productivity Commission’s website

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