Small business mental health programs get $6.7 million funding boost

Anne Rushton small business mental health

Acting Small Business Minister Anne Rushton. Source: AAP/Mick Tsikas

Small business advocates have welcomed increased government funding for mental health support services for business owners as they enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The federal government has pledged $4.6 million for Beyond Blue’s NewAccess for Small Business Owners mental health program, which provides free phone and video support to small business owners.

Small business owners, including sole traders, can access six one-on-one sessions with specialised coaches who are also former business owners. 

The new funding doubles the government’s commitment to the program, after it received $4.3 million in funding in 2020-21. It will allow for an extra six coaches to join the program, bringing the total number of coaches to 18. 

According to the government, the coaches will support 4680 small business owners this year. 

The government will also provide $2.1 million to Financial Counselling Australia to continue the Small Business Debt Helpline in 2022. 

The free helpline is designed to help small business owners in financial difficulty to understand issues including payment plans, debt waivers, insolvency and bankruptcy. 

Announcing the additional $6.7 million in funding on Thursday, acting Small Business Minister Anne Rushton said the government recognises that “small businesses are going it tough right now, whether that is because of having to self-isolate, workforce disruption, rapid changes to business models or the impacts of the natural disaster season”. 

“The funding will go a long way to assist businesses as we push through the Omicron gear change,” she added. 

The funding commitments were welcomed by Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson, who said the “vital” funding will help business owners who have “endured so much over the past two years, pummelled by the pandemic and natural disasters”.

“Small business owners who look after their mental health, can also help their business,” he added. 

“With this renewed funding in place, help is available to small business owners who need it.”

More information about the NewAccess for Small Business Owners program is available by calling 1300 945 301 or visiting the Beyond Blue website

The Small Business Debt Helpline is available at 1800 413 828 between 9am and 5.30pm AEDT, Monday to Friday. More information is also online here.

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