Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health

Working Group on Access to Contraception: Discussion

Mr. Andrew Conlon:

No money was allocated in budget 2020 for a free contraception scheme for two main reasons. First, it was a difficult budget in the context of a no-deal Brexit. Each Department and, indeed, the national finances were under pressure in that respect.

Second, the new money that was available for health has been prioritised towards mental health, community services and so on. There is also a practical element to that decision. As the report makes clear, there is an awful lot of detailed policy work and legislative work to be done to advance a scheme. In that sense, there would be little to be gained by allocating money in budget 2020 as the odds are it would sit there and not be utilised.

The mission for the Departments, in the 12 months ahead, is to do the detailed appraisal work. The report should be seen as a preliminary appraisal in public spending code terms, and now we move to consult with service providers to get more certainty on costs, examine our legislative position and finesse the parameters of the scheme that is advanced.

Having said that, what has come across so far in the report and statements is the work that has been done already, particularly in education. The HSE is working on that by developing a sexual well-being website and ensuring that there is a local distribution of materials and so on. We also have an ongoing review of the relationships and sexuality education, RSE, curriculum. There certainly has been progress. I accept that it might be a little under the surface at the moment and the public will not be able to see it but that is the direction of travel.