New Zealand needs to do more to help people with mental health issues, and the government should consider a reform of its accident compensation system to cover these illnesses, according to a new OECD report.
The report comes amid a review of New Zealand’s mental health work policies and outcomes. It highlights that one in five New Zealanders in any given year will experience a diagnosable mental health issue. This adversely affects well-being and costs the economy some $12-15 billion every year, equivalent to around 4-5% of annual GDP.
Among the key areas of action, as outlined by the OECD report, is a structural reform of the accident compensation scheme.
“Currently, there is a strict distinction in New Zealand between injuries, which are covered by the ACC system in an effective and well-resourced way, and illnesses, which are covered by an under-resourced general health and means-tested welfare system,” it says. “Mental health issues usually fall into the latter group.”
Other proposals to address the issue include: the development of a national mental health and work strategy; limiting the risk of long-term benefit dependence; and investing in employment support services for jobseekers with mental ill-health as well as encouraging support once in employment.