The NSW Government has earmarked $46.8 million over four years as part of the 2020-21 NSW Budget to deliver 100 new school-based nurses to support the health and wellbeing needs of students and their families.
The expansion of the successful Wellbeing and Health In-Reach Nurse (WHIN) program will see the highly skilled nurses embedded in more schools to ensure students can easily access health and social support when they need it.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the new funding would mean thousands more students across the State would have access to a nurse at school.
“With the added stress of COVID-19 on our young people, the further expansion of this program will ensure children, young people and families don’t miss out on the support they need,” Mr Perrottet said.
“NSW Health will fund these positions, however the practitioners will work with the Department of Education, with data and evidence to be used to place the nurses in areas of most need.
“This commitment is an investment in the mental health of young people across the state and will build a more resilient post-pandemic NSW for the future.”
Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said an evaluation of the pilot sites found the wellbeing nurses had successfully supported vulnerable students for a range of health and mental wellbeing issues.
“With the pilot program, we saw that school children often go and see the nurse about general health issues and once they are there, open up about other problems they have been experiencing,” Mrs Taylor said.
“The nurses will be given mental health training but are also there to deliver general health care and advice at the right time.
“We are making sure we are delivering quality services for everyone, no matter their age or where they live.”
Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said WHIN nurses are currently based in secondary and primary schools in Young, Tumut, Cooma, Deniliquin, Murwillumbah and Lithgow.
“These nurses are an important asset in our schools and as part of a combined approach with school counsellors and mental health training, our students will have every possible access to help when they need it,” Mrs Mitchell said.
The WHIN program is a joint initiative of NSW Health and the NSW Department of Education, which launched as a pilot in 2018 in Cooma, Tumut and Young and extended to three other regional communities in 2020.