Wednesday, 24 March 2021
Ceisteanna - Questions
I am shocked to hear that a Cabinet committee dealing with children and youth affairs has not met since last November. There are many groups of people who are suffering with mental health issues, stress and anxiety as a result of the Covid pandemic and the restrictions. One of those cohorts is made up of our young people and they are very significantly suffering. There is a lot of lip service paid to supporting people's mental health but not a lot of action. That the committee dealing with this area has not met since November tells its own story.
There are more than 2,000 young people and families waiting, often for months, for a first appointment with a clinical psychologist at the child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS. Last week, we proposed a measure, which will be voted on tomorrow, that would take a very significant amount of stress off young people. There are many sources of stress for them but the leaving certificate examination and the question of access to higher education is a very significant one. We proposed that the Government would do something simple like make places available for all CAO applicants, in higher education, further education and apprenticeship programmes, and remove the financial pressure and burden of fees. The Government refused to do that. There is all the talk about supporting people's mental health and what is going to change post Covid.
However, in reality there has been nothing for our young people. There has been nothing to support them through this extraordinarily stressful period.