The federal government plans to spend $7 million over the next year to expand two programs that support the mental health and financial wellbeing of small businesses owners affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The funding was outlined in Tuesday night’s federal budget and includes $4.3 million to expand the NewAccess program run by Beyond Blue in partnership with the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO).
The NewAccess program will provide small business operators with six free, one-on-one telehealth sessions with trained mental health professionals, and is expected to be available early next year.
The program will be integrated with ASBFEO’s My Business Health portal, with small business ombudsman Kate Carnell saying in a statement her office will help connect business owners with the service.
“Mental health is proving to be the next big challenge to emerge from the COVID crisis and it is particularly impacting the small business community,” Carnell said on Tuesday night.
“There has never been a tougher time to be in business. Small business owners are struggling to stay afloat and keep their staff employed throughout this difficult period.”
Speaking to SmartCompany, Carnell says this is the first time small business owners will have a “one-on-one small business-focused approach” to mental health services.
“It’s something we’ve been arguing for for a long time,” she says.
Carnell says the point of difference with the NewAccess program is that sessions will be delivered by coaches who have experience in the small business space.
“Many business owners won’t go to see a psychologist, but will they use the services of a coach? I think they might. Especially one who is about wellness and helping you get through.”
In the budget papers, the government said it will also provide $2.2 million to expand a professional development program run by Deakin University, which aims to build mental health literacy among business advisors so they can better support their small business clients.