Wellbeing budget to give mental health ‘focus it deserves’

Mental health is likely to get a significant funding boost, the finance minister has indicated in his address to Labour party members.

Grant Robertson hails from the city, having grown up in South Dunedin, a place where he said there was “not a lot of material wealth”, but where he learnt that if you “do the mahi, you get the treats”.

He listed the changes the coalition government has made since being elected last year, but also talked about the 2019 “wellbeing” Budget, he said would have five core priorities.

They would cover growing and modernising the economy, improving the wellbeing of children and “finally giving mental health the priority and focus it deserves”.

“All New Zealanders understand that as a country we haven’t done enough over a very long period of time to make sure that our mental wellbeing is of the highest standard.”

The details about all five priority areas for 2019 would be revealed in the Budget Policy Statement in December, said Mr Robertson.

Aspects of any future mental health funding like whether any particular demographic group were still being considered by ministers, and he said they were awaiting the Mental Health Inquiry report, due in a couple of weeks.

“But quite clearly the mental health of our young people is a significant issue, one that we know that if we don’t get right it has serious consequences for them”.

The aim, said Mr Robertson, was to identify the issues that would have the greatest impact on the inter-generational well-being of New Zealanders.

“That means we’re seeking projects not just driven by one government agency or one minister, that’s a fundamental difference in this approach…that it’s a priority for every minister.”

As part of the conference the Prime Minister chaired a youth panel, where mental health was raised as a significant concern.

Ms Ardern said that was backed by government data like the Census.

“We have amongst young people a really connected group but at the same time a really lonely one; we know we have mental health issues within that grouping so it makes sense that our next Budget would focus on the issue of mental health overall.”

Continuing low business confidence was also addressed, with Mr Robertson dismissing that as history showing “business tends to be a bit more pessimistic when a Government has Labour at its core”.

“We are not taking our careful approach to economic management to earn a few points in a business perception survey,” he said.

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