The announcement of more funding for mental health has given charities like Gumboot Friday hope after not meeting the criterion for Ministry of Health funding.
On Friday, Health Minister Andrew Little announced the Government has set up a one-off mental health innovation fund worth $1.2 million to expand support into the sector.
The Ministry of Health confirmed to 1 NEWS today that it will be inviting proposals from two organisations with “unique services that do not necessarily fit within one of our planned procurements, but which are likely to contribute significantly to the Government’s desired outcomes”.
“For this innovation fund pilot we are intending to work specifically with Gumboot Friday and MATES in Construction,” a spokesperson from the ministry said.
It was welcome news for both charities that have issued pleas to the Government for funding.
Gumboot Friday ambassador Mike King told 1 NEWS he was grateful money had been allocated and said he would “definitely” be applying for funding.
“We are extremely grateful for that,” he said, adding if the money was split between the two charities it would fund 4,285 counselling sessions.
King expressed his thanks to Jacinda Ardern on social media.
“On behalf of of all New Zealanders whose children 25 and under have been struggling to access face-to-face counselling I’d like to thank you for providing $600,000 that will fund 4,285 sessions.
“It is a wonderful show of faith in GBF and we are all very grateful.”
It comes after King was told by the Ministry of Health in June that it was “not in a position” to fund Gumboot Friday.
After waiting for months to meet the ministry, the charity was been told it didn’t qualify for funding from the $1.9 billion allocated to mental health in the Government’s Budget.
King plans to hold another Gumboot Friday fundraiser on November 5 after support flooded in from supporters following the first fundraiser in June.
King said he was “really disappointed” after only $943,000 was raised.
“We are looking for another 31,000 sessions which will mean we will need to raise $4 million,” King said today.
In June, King returned the Order of Merit honour he was awarded in 2019 for services to mental health awareness and suicide prevention after becoming frustrated by New Zealand’s unchanged mental health landscape.
MATES in Construction CEO, Victoria McArthur, is equally grateful. The charity is dedicated to improving mental wellness and reducing suicide in the construction industry.
The organisation claims there is nearly one death every week in the construction sector, which had a “vulnerable workforce” made up mostly of men with a lot of financial pressure, long hours and a “harden up” culture.
In April, the group issued a plea to the Government for $2 million funding so their team can travel out to the regions and offer their free services to workers.
It comes ahead of World Suicide Prevention day on September 10, which the charity marks as a day to ‘Fly the Flag‘, urging those in the sector to stop and check in on their mates.
McArthur told 1 NEWS the funding is “a step in the right direction from the Government” and she would be applying.
“There is a crisis in mental health in our industry – we have the highest rate of suicide of any industry in New Zealand. We think it’s really important that the Government and the industry work together.”
McArthur said the charity has been in talks with the ministry over the need for funding to expand the programme around the country.
Little highlights importance of early intervention
Health Minister Andrew Little said the Government wants to focus on specialist mental health care in the community.
“This Government is transforming Aotearoa – New Zealand’s approach to mental wellbeing with greater focus on care in the community, and more emphasis on prevention and early intervention,” he said.
“The $1.2-million Mental Wellbeing Innovation Fund pilot project is for one-off defined proposals that could contribute to improving mental wellbeing, including initiatives that focus on reducing suicidal distress or behaviour.”
A number of requests for financial assistance from non-government organisations, iwi and other groups to support mental wellbeing initiatives are regularly received by the Ministry of Health, but do not necessarily fit into existing tenders. This fund is another way the Government can look to support these programmes, Little said in a statement.
“Some of these proposals have merit and could contribute positively to the needs identified in He Ara Oranga: the Report of The Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, but are outside the scope of the planned procurements.
“A small number of organisations will be invited by the Ministry of Health to provide proposals and participate in a closed selective tender,” Little said.
“The Government’s vision is to help people stay mentally well – with the help of support available in their communities.
“We are working on the bigger picture and know there is more work to do, but this is another way this Government can provide services for those with immediate needs.
“We want to ensure those with complex or severe needs get timely access to specialist help as part of our commitment to laying the foundations for a better future for all New Zealanders.”