Government boosts mental health support for SMEs

$15 million will fund programs for small business owners

Government boosts mental health support for SMEs

The federal government will provide more than $15 million in funding to extend its provision of free mental health and financial counselling to Australia’s 2.5 million small businesses.

The funding will be given to a number of programs including Beyond Blue’s NewAccess for Small Business Owners and Financial Counselling Australia’s Small Business Debt Helpline. Under the previous government led by Scott Morrison, the funding was due to end on December 31, 2022.

NewAccess for Small Business Owners is a guided self-help mental health coaching program that can be conducted via phone or video calls, while the Small Business Debt Helpline provides free, independent, and confidential advice from financial counsellors who specialise in small businesses.

According to the Minister of Small Business Julie Collins (pictured above), the additional funding was established in response to a recent Treasury report that found many small business owners had experienced mental health challenges in late 2021 and early 2022.

The report showed that one in five respondents surveyed said they had been professionally diagnosed with a mental health condition in recent months, with some industry groups reporting statistics as high as one in three. The identified barriers to accessing support included the cost at 54%, lack of time at 49%, and services not understanding the needs of small businesses (39%).

A near majority of small business owners (46%) also raised concerns about the stigma of mental ill-health, thinking they would being treated poorly if they disclosed they had been diagnosed with a mental illness. This figure has dropped slightly from the 2020 Treasury report which showed 48% of respondents were concerned about stigma

The federal government has recognised the growth of small businesses in recent years, and is committed to sustaining the sector’s resilience in the long run through the appropriate mental and financial support. Doing so will help small business owners strike a better balance between demands of work, family, and personal life during the pandemic.

“I understand that many small businesses are doing it tough, and I want them to know that support is available,” Collins said. “I would urge small businesses to access these free government‑funded programs that provide confidential support from coaches and counsellors who understand how small businesses work.”

More information about the NewAccess for Small Business Owners program is available by calling 1300 945 301 or on the Beyond Blue website. Small business owners can contact the Small Business Debt Helpline by calling 1800 413 828 or via the Small Business Debt Helpline website.