13 January 2022

More funding for free mental health counselling for small business


Senator the Hon Anne Ruston
Acting Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business

The Morrison Government is doubling funding for free mental health support to small business owners to assist them through the current COVID-19 pandemic and recent natural disasters.

An additional $4.6 million of funding will ensure Beyond Blue can boost the successful and innovative mental health program, NewAccess for Small Business Owners and a further $2.1 million will ensure Financial Counselling Australia can extend the Small Business Debt Helpline for 2022.

Acting Minister for Small and Family Business Anne Ruston said the funding would not only help support Australian small businesses facing difficulty as Australia navigates the Omicron surge but also provide support as businesses adapt to a post-covid world where business models have been forced to change and adapt rapidly.

‘We recognise Australian small businesses are doing 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—if you are doing it tough help is there for you. You can call Beyond Blue or the Small Business Debt Helpline for immediate support,’ Minister Ruston said.

‘The funding will go a long way to assist businesses as we push through the Omicron gear change.

‘Small business owners are the backbone of the Australian economy, but we know there are immediate challenges being faced due to COVID-19 and natural disaster events.

‘We don’t want to see a return to lockdowns and the Morrison Government is committed to providing mental health and financial counselling support to help businesses to push through the current challenges and get back on track.

‘It is tough, but we can get through this together and the government is here to support you.’

The NewAccess for Small Business Owners Program provides free, confidential, one-on-one mental health support via phone or video to small business owners, including sole traders. The coaches are former small business owners themselves, so they understand the unique challenges that small businesses face – including family and financial pressures.

This will deliver six additional coaches from 1 April 2022 to create a team of 18 specialised support coaches who will help 4,680 small business owners work through any difficult challenges they may be facing over six one-on-one coaching sessions.

Business owners who participate in the program say that it makes them feel better able to address the challenges they’re facing, and they feel well supported by people who understand them. Participants also say they value being able to get support almost immediately via this free service.

The latest funding injection builds on funding of $4.3 million provided to Beyond Blue to deliver the program in 2020–21 which was part of the Government’s $7 million BusinessBalance measure enabling small business owners to take proactive steps to improve their mental health.

The Small Business Debt Helpline is a free service for small business owners in financial difficulty. It supports small business owners to navigate issues including avoiding bankruptcy, negotiating payment plans, debt waivers, grant applications and insolvency. This builds on the Government’s previous $3.5 million investment in 2020 to establish the Small Business Bushfire Financial Counselling Support Line as part of the Government’s response to the devastating 2019‑20 bushfires.

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

Small business owners can contact the Small Business Debt Helpline by calling 1800 413 828 between 9am and 5.30pm Monday to Friday AEDT or at Small Business Debt website.