11 November 2021

Evaluation gives tick to Australian Public Service workplace mental health program

| Ian Bushnell
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Woman in consultation with psychologist

NewAccess participants reported marked improvements in work engagement, job satisfaction and productivity. Photo: File.

The expansion of an early intervention mental health program across Commonwealth workplaces is delivering strong recovery rates and productivity outcomes, an independent evaluation has found.

Comcare – the national work, health and safety, and workers compensation authority – began rolling out the two-year NewAccess workplaces program across 16 participating Australian Public Service agencies in July 2020 after a successful trial in 2018-2019, promoting it to 120,000 staff.

PwC Australia has conducted a mid-program interim evaluation to assess the appropriateness of the program, ease of implementation, uptake and return on investment.

It found participants achieved a 73 per cent recovery rate; that 93 per cent of workers who participated in the program were satisfied or very satisfied with the program; and 90 per cent said it exceeded their expectations.

Participants reported marked improvements in work engagement, job satisfaction and productivity, and found the program helped to reduce their symptoms and, importantly, increased their ability to manage their mental health and wellness.

For employers, NewAccess helped to improve self-reported absenteeism and provided valuable insight into the reasons why workers used the program to help inform work health and safety programs and services.

The evaluation found that every $1 invested in the program generated $1.30 in productivity benefits for employers.

More than 700 enquiries about the services had been received, with more than 450 booked assessments, and more than 400 service packages recorded.

The evaluation found that 95 per cent of participants sustained their recovery at a one-month follow up and all of those who participated in a six-month follow up continued to demonstrate sustained recovery.

The top work-related reasons for using NewAccess were workload demands, workplace changes, work-related interpersonal issues, to clarify their role, the effects of remote or isolated work, and the physical environment.

The top personal reasons were family issues, relationship difficulties, interpersonal or social issues, grief and bereavement.

The evaluation results have encouraged Comcare to continue to explore opportunities to expand the service.

The NewAccess mental health coaching service, developed by Beyond Blue, is an innovative model of care that focuses on prevention and early intervention of mild to moderate anxiety and/or depression.

It is based on the UK’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) program, and is a low-intensity cognitive behaviour therapy (LiCBT) program.

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Scott Anthony10:57 pm 16 Nov 21

Window dressing for what is a massive problem in the public service…

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