Four accounting bodies have come together to launch a nationwide mental health training program, enabling advisers to provide mental health support to small business owners.

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, CPA Australia, IPA and the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers will launch the program, ‘Counting on U’, having delivered the pilot in February. Developed by Deakon University and funded by a $2.4 million Australian government grant, the training program focuses on providing small business owners with the skills to manage financial stress and to seek help when it is needed.

According to Andrew Hunter, CEO of CPA Australia, “As with any natural disaster, the mental health effects can have a long tailwind and COVID-19 is no different. With these skills, the accounting profession is ready to provide mental health support to the community for as long as it’s needed.”

With the training to start in late April, the program comes at a time when many small businesses will be feeling the heat from the end of JobKeeper and the continuing effects of the COVID pandemic. 

According to Ainslie van Onselen, CEO of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, “We are not out of the woods yet. Many families and businesses are staring down the barrel of long-term financial problems which can often go hand in hand with mental health difficulties.”

Research conducted by MYOB reveals that two thirds of small businesses owners have experienced stress, anxiety or a negative impact on their mental wellbeing as a result of COVID-19. Managing cash flow, working long hours and feelings of isolation are just some of the ways respondents suggested that their mental health has been impacted.

According to Amanda Linton, CEO of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers, “This project could not have been introduced at a more appropriate time.” The mental health system has long been criticised as being reactive rather than proactive, and this program is an example of businesses taking responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their stakeholders.

Andrew Conway, CEO of the Institute of Public Accountants, says, “If taking this course results in one person accessing professional services sooner, then surely it is worth doing.”


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