Response to a letter about spending on mental health and addiction services

28 April 2022

Mr Matt Doocey MP
MP for Waimakariri
Parliament Buildings
Wellington 6160

Tēnā koe Mr Doocey

Thank you for your letter of 14 April 2022 requesting that I inquire into the Government’s 2019 $1.9 billion investment into mental health and addiction services.

In your letter you ask that I investigate this investment as New Zealanders deserve to know:

  • where the money has gone;
  • why it seems to have made no difference;
  • why it has become even harder to access services; and
  • which performance measures are in place to ensure the desired outcomes are being achieved.

My annual plan 2021/22

Mental health and addiction services are of particular interest for my Office.

In my 2021/22 annual plan, I signalled my intention to look at the Government’s significant investment into mental health in recent years to better understand the purpose of the investment and how it is being used. This included my intention to report on what plans have been made, progress in implementing those plans, and results achieved to date.

However, since the time of publishing my 2021/22 annual plan, there have been several reviews of the effectiveness of the Government’s 2019 mental health and addiction funding package. These are the 2021 review by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Implementation Unit, the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission’s 2021 review into the Access and Choice initiative, and the Commission’s 2022 Te Huringa service monitoring report. Through my Office’s early scoping work on the work signalled in my 2021/22 annual plan, I am aware that both agencies intend to carry out ongoing monitoring work in this area.

Given this recent and continuing monitoring by these two agencies, I wanted to avoid duplicating this work and have decided that my Office’s next piece of work on this topic will focus on the effectiveness of mental health and addiction services for young people, a group with an increasing need for mental health support.

I also intend to maintain a close interest in mental health and addiction services within the context of the reform of the health and disability system, which may result in my Office carrying out further work in future years, including in the areas you have raised with me. And of course, in our regular reporting as part of the annual audit and annual review process, we will draw to the Health Committee’s attention relevant performance issues across the health system, including in mental health.

Our intentions for 2022/23

In my draft annual plan for 2022/23, which will be published on Friday 29 April, I have signalled my intention to look at the effectiveness of mental health and addiction services for young people.

My Office will look at what public organisations with responsibilities for mental health and addiction services understand about young peoples’ current access to services, as well as the extent, distribution, and causes of unmet need for services among this group.

This will include examining the performance measures by which government agencies track and publicly report on access to services, as well as what public organisations are doing to address any gaps or delays in care.

My draft annual plan will be open for feedback from members of Parliament, the public, and other interested stakeholders until 27 May 2022.

Thank you for writing to me. Because of the public interest in the matter, I have decided to publish this letter on our website.

Nāku noa, nā

John Ryan
Controller and Auditor-General