The Department of Social Services (DSS) has conducted a consultation process to investigate the impact of the publication of the revised DSM-5 on the Government initiatives Helping Children with Autism (HCWA) and Better Start for Children with Disability (Better Start). Up until this time, to be eligible for these programs, children have required a DSM-IV diagnosis. With the introduction of DSM-5 the Australian Government has revised the eligibility criteria to account for changes to the relevant diagnoses. The eligibility criteria as of 1 February 2014 will take account of both DSM-IV and DSM-5 diagnoses, with the eligible conditions being:
Rett’s disorder, which was previously included in the disorders eligible for HCWA funding and was a diagnosis in DSM-IV, has been removed from DSM-5 as it is now accepted that it is a neurological disorder. However, the DSS has determined that Rett’s disorder will continue to be an eligible disorder but will now be treated under the Better Start initiative rather than HCWA.
The new diagnosis of social communication disorder is not currently included in these initiatives but will be reviewed by DSS in 12 months when more information about the diagnosis is likely to be available.
For more information about the HCWA and Better Start funding changes, refer to the fact sheet (below) or visit the DSS website at www.dss.gov.au/autism
Further to the advice provided to members in December 2013, the APS has successfully negotiated a change to the Medicare Locals Accreditation Standards to ensure that ATAPS providers do not have to register to undertake external accreditation. A document with the detailed revisions can be accessed below:
Many ATAPS providers have received letters from their Medicare Locals informing them that as a consequence of the implementation of the Medicare Local Accreditation Standards they will need to be accredited against the National Standards for Mental Health Services (NMHSS) by an external accreditation agency by the end of 2014.
The APS has significant concerns about this approach and many members have been in touch. The costs to providers of this approach are significant and use of the NMHSS as an accreditation tool by itself is questionable. The APS has been liaising with the other professions involved in delivering ATAPS and the Department of Health to find a more effective approach to reduce the impost upon ATAPS providers. Members will be kept informed of progress in relation to this matter, and are advised not to proceed with accreditation until the outcomes of discussions with the Department are finalised.
The APS and the Psychology Board of Australia have reached an ‘in-principle’ agreement that will enable the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) to be re-appointed as the accrediting body for psychology to the end of June 2018. This agreement will enable APAC to continue to undertake accreditation of the undergraduate and postgraduate psychology courses of Australian universities and higher education providers, and recognises APAC’s successful track record as the national accrediting authority for psychology.
An election for the President-Elect and two General Director positions on the APS Board of Directors was held by postal and electronic ballot, and the result was declared at the APS AGM on 10 October 2013.
The successful candidate for the President-Elect is Professor Mike Kyrios FAPS. Following a 12-month term as President-Elect, Mike will assume the office of President of the APS from the AGM in 2014 for a term of two years.
As Mike is currently a Director on the APS Board, with one year remaining of the three-year term for which he was originally elected, his election to President-Elect produced a third vacancy for a General Director on the Board. Therefore three successful candidates have been newly elected to General Director positions on the Board and they are Professor Tim Carey MAPS, Dr Nick Reynolds FAPS and Professor Debra Rickwood FAPS. Tim Carey and Nick Reynolds will each serve a three-year term and Debra Rickwood’s term is for one year (to fill the vacancy caused by Mike Kyrios’ election to President-Elect).
We congratulate each of these members of the APS on their election and look forward to their contribution to the APS Board over the coming years.
The full composition of the APS Board of Directors and brief profiles of the Directors can be found here.
26 September 2013
Members' attention is drawn to a recent offer to be included in the Australasian Health Professionals Directory, which was directed towards GPs and is now targeting psychologists. The offer is for “basic data published free of charge” in the directory but the fine print states that the listing will be for a minimum of 3 years, at $1,300 per year if not cancelled within 3 months of the current contract period.
There is other concerning material:
Advice to members
The APS advises members who receive this offer to ignore it. Members who have already signed up to the directory should immediately send a follow-up communication rescinding your participation. Do not make any payment or provide credit card details. The more information that is given, the greater your exposure to risk.
If you are being contacted by AUAHP or a related entity seeking further information, such as credit card details, or payment of any kind, do not pay or provide those details. Contact the Office of Fair Trading in your State or Territory.
It is unlikely that any Australian court would uphold the legitimacy of these agreements. Nevertheless, it is best not to get involved in the first place. As always, members should be very cautious about signing up to agreements that are from unknown, unsolicited or untrusted sources, from Australia and overseas. Often a basic enquiry will reveal sufficient detail to assist you to make an informed choice. If in doubt, contact the Office of Fair Trading in your State or Territory, or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The APS acknowledges the assistance of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) regarding this matter.
In the lead-up to the Federal election, the APS prepared a number of costed initiatives that were sent to the major political parties for a response. The initiatives span 10 areas where there are real opportunities to bring significant benefits to the Australian community by increasing access to effective psychological care and knowledge. The APS 2013 election document can be accessed here. Two of the three parties have responded to the APS election proposals, as below.
The Greens’ mental health election platform includes the reinstatement of the exceptional circumstances sessions under the Better Access initiative that were lost in recent funding cuts. The Greens’ costed policy to reinstate the additional sessions of psychological treatment under refined criteria is based on the proposal presented by the APS. The Greens responded to the APS by providing their mental health and rural mental health policies.
Australian Labor Party
The Labor Party has responded in writing to the APS 10-point key issues election document. The ALP response can be accessed here.
The Liberal Party
The Liberal Party has not, as yet, responded to the APS election proposals.
According to a media release by the Australian Labor Party (“Frontline Health Workers on Abbott’s Chopping Block”, August 18), should the Coalition win government, there will be serious cuts to this primary care frontline workforce in all States. Given the potential for such cuts to seriously impact on community wellbeing, the APS wrote to all three major parties, seeking assurance that they will not support cuts to the funding of this primary care workforce. It was indicated in the letters that APS members would be provided with feedback on the response of each party. Medicare Locals provide a vital point of access to psychological services for many community members, especially people who are financially disadvantaged and those living in rural areas. Medicare Locals across Australia also deliver an extensive range of primary care services to people with chronic illness.
The APS has now received responses from the three major parties. The Australian Labor Party stated they “will not cut frontline health services”. The Greens have responded and indicated that their plans for mental health and rural mental health include considerable expansion of the frontline psychology workforce, as outlined in their mental health and rural mental health policies. The Coalition has stated that it ”will not be cutting health funding or closing Medicare Locals” (the response can be read here).
The APS has prepared a number of costed initiatives that have been presented to Federal politicians from the major political parties in the context of the Federal election. The initiatives span 10 areas where there are real opportunities to bring significant benefits to the Australian community by increasing access to effective psychological care and knowledge.
The Australian Government today announced a deferral of the introduction of the $2,000 cap on tax deductions for work-related education expenses until 1 July 2015. The rationale provided for this decision was to allow for further consultation on how best to target excessive claims while ensuring the impact on university enrolments and genuine continuing professional development is minimised.
This announcement is a significant achievement and reflects the strong advocacy from professional associations, including the APS, representing members who will be affected by the cap. APS advocacy for the removal or significant modification of the $2,000 cap will continue in order to inform the Government’s consultation.
New regulations were introduced with national registration in 2010 prohibiting the use of testimonials when advertising psychological services. A reference to this requirement has now been included in the APS Code of Ethics. The APS Code of Ethics has allowed the use of testimonials in some circumstances, but the law governing the national registration scheme supersedes the Code of Ethics and the national regulation therefore takes precedence.
The Psychology Board of Australia’s Guidelines for advertising of regulated health services states that ‘a person must not advertise a regulated health service, or a business that provides a regulated health service, in a way that …(c) uses testimonials or purported testimonials about the service or business”
The APS has sought clarification from the PsyBA on a number of occasions about the applicability of this regulation to psychologists’ use of testimonials on books and when promoting continuing professional development workshops, and has also recently included this in a submission to the PsyBA. We are still awaiting clarification on this issue from the PsyBA.
Read C.2.3 of the Code of Ethics.
The APS strongly supports the call for a review of the Government’s proposed $2,000 cap on tax deductions for self-education expenses. A detailed submission has been prepared for the Government’s consultation on this matter, providing details of the impact of the proposed cap on the psychology profession and strongly arguing that the cap is removed or significantly modified.
The APS has joined forces with other professional groups to raise concerns and has also conveyed the APS position in advocacy with Members of Parliament and senior Government bureaucrats.
The key issues of concern to the APS are as follows.
2 July 2013
The Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) transition provision for Western Australian psychologists’ use of specialist titles is due to end on 18 October 2013. From 19 October 2013 those psychologists who are currently eligible will no longer be able to use the word ‘specialist’ in their title. The PsyBA has stated that from 19 October 2013 all business cards, office signage, advertising and office stationery etc must be amended so that it does not display the title ‘specialist’ at all. Any WA psychologist who fails to make changes to his or her specialist title business signage in time for the close of the transition period could incur an extremely hefty fine.
24 June 2013
Two Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) transition periods come to an end on 30 June 2013 with associated deadlines.
Members are urged to carefully read the information in the links below to ensure they have taken any action appropriate to their individual circumstances by 30 June 2013. The PsyBA has given no indication that there will be any leniency when enforcing the new requirements once the deadlines have passed.
17 June 2013
The Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program provides an evidence-based assessment of the psychological health of your workplace along with access to best advice and resources designed to improve staff wellbeing, engagement and performance.
Members' attention is drawn to a recent elaborate email scam targeting psychologists. There may well be variations of this type of scam. The scam involves a person contacting a psychologist by email to inform him or her that he wants to book daily therapy for a group of 10 oil rig workers while they are on vacation.
After negotiating the level and type of services required in further emails to the psychologist, the person undertakes to pay the psychologist but is only able to do this through traveller’s cheques, sometimes via their employer. Ultimately the traveller’s cheques will be received by the psychologist, but are likely to be bogus. Once the psychologist receives the traveller’s cheques, the person then cancels the appointments and asks for a refund of the payment – most likely to another bank account.
Members should be extremely cautious if they are requested to make any arrangement that sounds like this, and they are strongly advised not to process such payments. To attempt to do so could potentially implicate the psychologist in the scam itself.
Jill Wright MAPS was elected as a General Director on the APS Board of Directors in a by-election in May 2013. The by-election was held as the result of a vacancy on the Board as Associate Professor Louise Roufeil FAPS recently resigned to take up a senior position in the APS National Office. Jill has been elected for the remainder of the three-year term ending at the 2015 Annual General Meeting. Her profile can be found here along with those of the other members of the APS Board of Directors.
There were two ‘savings’ measures in the 2013 Federal Budget which have implications for psychologists.
A by-election will be held in May for a General Director position on the APS Board of Directors and nominations for the position are now open. The vacancy has been created as Associate Professor Louise Roufeil FAPS recently resigned from the Board to take up a senior position in the APS National Office. Nominations for this General Director position for the remainder of the original three-year term (ending at the 2015 Annual General Meeting) will close on Friday 26 April 2013.
For further information on the by-election click here.
Clients who commenced treatment with a psychologist under the Better Access initiative at the beginning of 2013 have started to reach the 10 session limit per calendar year, and the reductions to the session allowance this year will increasingly have an impact. APS advocacy for the reinstatement of the exceptional circumstances sessions under Better Access is continuing, as is the overall advocacy with both the Government and the Opposition for the maintenance of this highly successful and cost-effective mental health initiative.
To inform the APS advocacy, members are invited to participate in the APS Better Access Survey 2013. The aim of the 2013 survey is to collect data on clients seen by APS psychologists under the Better Access initiative in 2013 who, at the end of the allowable 10 sessions of treatment, were judged by the psychologist to need further treatment. The study aims to investigate the nature of these clients and the additional treatment arrangements that were put in place. The survey will remain open for the 2013 calendar year and data can be entered at any time. It is recommended that data for relevant clients is entered close to the time when their 2013 episode of treatment ended.
Each year the APS has the opportunity to contribute to the Federal Government’s Budget planning through the call for pre-Budget submissions. This week the APS tendered its Budget submission ahead of the setting of the 2013-14 Federal Budget. The APS has focused on some important areas of service reform that remain unaddressed, despite the changes that have occurred to date through the Government’s health reform agenda.
The APS provided a modest and targeted set of spending proposals to increase community access to effective psychological services and help to ensure the momentum for national health reform is sustained into the future. Specifically, the APS proposed a number of scalable initiatives in the following areas: increasing access to mental health services for children in conjunction with the trial of the Government’s 3-year-old Health Check; improving access to psychological services in residential aged care through a pilot study; improving neuropsychological diagnostic accuracy in aged care services through a trial of funded assessments; improving the treatment of chronic disease and obesity through a trial of behaviour change services in Medicare Locals; and improving access to psychological services for all Australians by restoring the six sessions for exceptional circumstances under the Better Access initiative for clients meeting specified criteria.
The APS Budget submission will be followed up with personal advocacy with key Ministers and their Advisors. To read the APS Budget submission, click here.