The NGO Development Strategy: Mental Health

Commenced June 2004

Completed: December 2007

Note: The term NGO or Non-government Organisation has since been replaced by CMO or Community Managed Organisation. CMO is used predominantly elsewhere on this site and in MHCC documents and bublications.


The NGO Development Strategy was an initiative funded by, and run in partnership with, MHDAO. Through this Strategy, MHCC worked to build the profile and capacity of NGOs providing mental health rehabilitation and recovery services. The Strategy has concentrated on three main areas of activity:

  • Workforce Development
  • Outcomes and Quality
  • Promoting Partnerships.

Workforce Development
Within the NGO Development Strategy: Mental Health there is a strong focus on workforce development - that is, ensuring the workforce has the skills, resources and environment necessary to deliver high quality services.
During 2006/07, our work focused on the establishment of MHCC Learning and Development (MHCC LD) and a range of workforce development initiatives, outlined below.

The establishment of MHCC LD as a registered training organisation (RTO) enables MHCC to provide relevant, accessible and effective training and assessment services for the NGO mental health sector. Training provided by the LDU will be:

  • Affordable
  • Available across NSW
  • Responsive to the needs and philosophy of the NGO mental health sector. 
  • Flexible, with a commitment to provide recognition services (RPL)

Initial training provided by the MHCC LD will be linked to the Certificate IV in Mental Heath Work (nonclinical) and called Rehabilitation for Recovery. It will provide a voluntary minimum standard of training for workers in the sector. Pilots and Stage 1 and 2 courses, which form an orientation and induction to the work in the sector, have been completed. The LDU will also be responsible for the provision of short courses, both accredited and non accredited, related to sector needs.

The development of the MHCC LD has been informed by earlier research into the needs of the sector. This research includes: Training and Other Workforce Development Options Paper, Training Needs Analysis for the NHO mental health sector and the MHCC annual member survey.

Workforce Development Reference Group and sub committees
MHCC established a Workforce Development Reference Group. The role of the group was to provide MHCC with information about the training and other workforce development needs of the NGO mental health sector, and to provide guidance in the development of initiatives to address those needs. The group was made up of representatives from NGOs specialising in mental health, other
NGOs whose client base includes those with a mental illness, consumer groups, carer groups, and others with experience and interest in training and other areas of workforce development.

The Mental Health Training Needs Working Group is a sub committee of the Workforce Development Reference Group. It provides ongoing advice and guidance to MHCC in the development of MHCC LD and products and services including the "Rehabilitation for Recovery" training aligned to the Certificate IV in Mental Health Work (Non-clinical).

The Recruitment and Staff Development sub committee provided guidance and advice to MHCC in its work on a recruitment campaign for the sector and a related staff development resource. The aim of the Recruitment Campaign was to enhance recruitment to the sector by promoting the benefits of working in the sector and streamlining the processes involved for organisations to recruit and for people to apply for work in the sector.

The campaign consisted of:

  • 2 posters
  • 1 x 12 page brochure
  • Web based information
  • Postcards
  • PowerPoint presentation
  • Promotion through editorials, interviews etc.

The Staff Development Guide (published as Workforce Development Guide 2008) provided information to help organisations provide high quality staff development and will enhance staff retention.

The Consumer Role sub committee worked with MHCC and NSW CAG to provide advice to MHCC about the development of a guide to assist NGOs in the management, support and payment of people in consumer roles in NGOs. The Consumer Role Guide was developed in partnership with NSW CAG, providing such information as:

  • Philosophical base
  • Joint position statement
  • Practical resources - policy, procedures,
  • Links to existing structures - i.e. awards etc
  • Recommendations for new structures and practices

Development of recognition resources aligned to the Certificate IV in Mental Health Work (Nonclinical)

Work was undertaken, in partnership with the NSW Community Services and Health ITAB to develop recognition resources linked to the Certificate IV in Mental Health Work (Non-clinical). The aim of this work was to make it easier for people to gain qualifications through recognition of prior learning (RPL) assessment pathways when their experience working in the sector has provided them with the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for the Certificate IV.

Work is continuing in the establishment of a traineeship aligned to the Certificate IV in Mental Health Work (Non-clinical). This is being carried out in partnership with NSW Community Services and Health ITAB. An application for a Vocational Training Order to enable the traineeship has been submitted. It is anticipated that the Traineeship should commence in 2008. As well as providing high quality, relevant on- and off-the-job training, traineeships also offer significant financial incentives for employers of trainees, thereby enabling additional employment within the sector.

Review of the Community Services Training Package
The entire Community Services Training Package has since been reviewed including the Certificate IV in Mental Health Work (Non-clinical). The review focussed on matching units of competency to job roles. The review also considered the introduction of Diploma and Graduate Diploma qualifications for the sector.

Partnerships in Workforce Development
MHCC works with a variety of other organisations to enhance the quality, relevance and accessibility of training and other workforce development opportunities available to the NGO mental health sector. This has involved activities such as:

  • The review of course materials and the provision of advice and input into consultations for the development of new training - numerous organisations have partnered with MHCC to pilot training and RPL development, also advice and input has been provided by the Mental Health Training Working Group
  • Consideration of joint course development i.e. course for consumer representatives in partnership with NSW Institute of Psychiatry
  • MHCC's Workforce Development Reference Group regularly engages sector representatives in workforce development initiatives, such as our current recruitment campaign.
  • A Guide to assist NGOs in the management, support and payment of people in consumer roles in NGOs is being developed in partnership with NSW CAG.

Training Calendar
MHCC developed a bi-annual training calendar that lists courses from diverse providers, relevant for workers and volunteers in NGOs providing mental health services. 

Quality and Outcomes
In 2006-07, MHCC worked to develop a sector wide approach to the collection, distribution and use of data about service activity. Work in this area falls into two main areas:

  • Routine Consumer Outcome Monitoring (RCOM). This involves information about the experiences, perceptions, health status and functioning, other characteristics and/or changes happening for clients/consumers over time.
  • Participant and Activity data. This type of data is concerned with service delivery characteristics and outcomes. It includes demographic information about service users, and service type, frequency, and related information.

From the above sources a minimum data set was developed consisting of information jointly determined by the sector to be most relevant, necessary and useful for informing quality improvement. NGOs need to be resourced and trained to collect the information. De-identified information could then be used throughout the sector for the purposes of:

  • Development of a knowledge base about community organisation-delivered mental health programs.
  • Evaluation
  • Quality improvement
  • Planning

The formation of a minimum data set aimed to strengthen mental health NGOs' capacity to achieve client or consumer-driven service design. Human services in the information age are consumer-driven because they collect information continuously about consumer needs, preferences, experiences and outcomes. As well, they collect information about the service capacities and characteristics that best respond to consumer needs. This is in contrast to services being philosophically driven by what well-intentioned individuals or committees think consumers or communities need.

Promoting partnerships
The Strategy was designed to assist in the development of partnerships and collaborative working practices both within the NGO mental health sector and between this and other sectors. The aim is to facilitate the sharing of information and the development of effective referral protocols, as well as to promote the use of best practice, innovation and collaboration in planning and service delivery across the sector.