Dáil debates

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Financial Resolutions 2020 - Financial Resolution No. 7: General (Resumed)

 

2:00 pm

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)

Budget 2021 is the biggest investment in the history of our State and it is coming at a time when we need to protect the lives and the livelihood of our people. I welcome the allocation of an additional €50 million for mental health services in this year's budget, which comprises €38 million for policy and operational development and €12 million to underpin the cost of existing services. This brings the total HSE mental health allocation to €1.076 billion, which is the biggest ever mental health budget.

The challenges facing our mental health services are well documented. Even prior to this year, demand for services was increasing while the turbulence of 2020 has added to that. I acknowledge that extra funding alone will not solve all problems. With that in mind, we recently launched the new mental health policy, Sharing the Vision: A Mental Health Policy for Everyone. This plots a new way forward with an increased emphasis on community and primary care services to complement the work already being done in our specialist services. I would also like to inform the House that last Saturday, which was World Mental Health Day, I launched the implementation and monitoring committee to oversee A Vision for Change.

As we move forward with implementation the new policy will enable us to deal with mental health issues at an early stage, which is very important for each person, and we all know that early intervention is key, thus reducing the pressure on the specialist services such as child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS. I am pleased to announce that €5 million of the spend has been allocated to CAMHS, which will result in 29 whole-time equivalent staff members. I am acutely aware of the waiting list currently for CAMHS.

The policy also places a greater focus on mental health promotion and the prevention of mental health difficulties, which is of critical importance in the context of the new challenges posed by Covid-19. Some €23 million of this new funding will enable us to commence the implementation of a number of short-term recommendations contained in the policy. These include the expansion of clinical programmes, adult crisis resolution services, increased supports in employment, additional peer support workers, bereavement co-ordinators, dialectical behaviour therapy, and additional mental health beds. Enhanced mental health community teams will also be delivered and developed. That will amount to 34 or 35 additional mental health beds next year.

The additional €15 million will reinforce our response to the additional challenges set by Covid-19. As part of this response, we will make use of more step-down beds and extra community mental health teams. The former will help to free up space in our acute mental health system while the latter will provide supports to those outside the acute system. The remaining €12 million will help to cover the rising cost of existing service provision, including placements for those patients whose needs cannot be met within the mental health public system.

The substantial funding increase in this year's budget will help us to ensure that our mental health services can meet the challenges of these extraordinary times. A range of HSE-funded psychosocial supports are already in place, mostly through NGO providers such as Jigsaw, MyMind, SpunOut, Pieta House and many more. They are providing online and telephone supports for those most directly affected by the personal challenges being experienced during the pandemic. I thank all of those organisations that have worked with the HSE and the Department of Health in the past seven months. Ninety per cent of all mental health supports were retained during the Covid lockdown. That is hugely important. Many of the groups moved very quickly towards a blended approach that included telephone, video and e-conference. That has worked very well. In my role as Minister of State with responsibility for mental health, I am wholly committed to enhancing mental health services to ensure that all individuals living in Ireland can get the support they need when they need it.

Moving on to my remit as Minister of State with responsibility for older people, I welcome the ambitious budget announced today, which includes unparalleled investment to support and enable older people to continue to live in their own homes and in their communities for as long as possible. The budget extra allocation was €367 million, which was a phenomenal amount. Central to this budget is a considerable investment in the enhancement of home care to deliver 5 million additional hours in 2021 while building the HSE's capacity to deliver its share of those services.

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