Mental health specialists will be employed to work with key industry associations under a Victorian government program designed to offer support directly to small businesses as they continue to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The $2 million program is part of a broader $26 million mental health support program for Victorian businesses, first announced by the government in July 2020.
Up to 10 industry groups will be given access to the program, with specialists already working with the Hair and Beauty Industry Association, the Australian Hotels Association and the Australian Retailers Association.
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry will participate in the program, as will the Victoria Tourism Industry Council, the Geelong Chamber of Commerce, Kinaway Chamber of Commerce, Commerce Ballarat and Be.Bendigo.
“Putting mental health specialists on the floor and working closely with industry experts means that business owners and their workers can be supported in effective ways,” said Victorian Small Business Minister Jaala Pulford in a statement.
Mental health service provider EACH has received the funding from the government as the auspice organisation for the program and will employ the mental health clinicians, who will be co-located with the industry associations.
SmartCompany understands most of the industry associations will be on the interview panels alongside EACH, as part of the recruitment process for the fixed-term positions that have been funded until June 30, 2021.
The government has established a Partners in Wellbeing team as part of its broader mental health business support program, and this team will oversee the specialists who are employed to work with the industry associations.
The team will also be a referral point for small business owners who need ongoing support and professional advice.
Mark Rippon, general manager of the Hair and Beauty Industry Association, said in the same statement the program will give his association members “someone to reach out to for support and guidance, or just someone to connect with”.
“They’ll be able to access a number of specialised support services confidentially whilst importantly, having the same support provider for the duration of the service,” he added.
The Victorian government’s broader support program also includes the Partners in Wellbeing helpline, which is free for business owners to access seven days a week, and a mental health first response training program for Victorian chambers of commerce, run by St John Ambulance.
Last year, small business ombudsman Kate Carnell urged business owners to prioritise their mental health during the pandemic, as research showed COVID-19 and its economic impact was becoming a key mental health challenge for business operators.
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Victorian business owners can call the Partners in Wellbeing helpline on 1300 375 330.