Dáil debates

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Covid-19, Mental Health and Older People: Statements


10:30 am

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

We will each take three minutes. I am sure Deputy Cathal Crowe will be here shortly. I thank the Minister of State. First, I congratulate the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, and her husband, Paul, on the birth of their baby son this morning. That is really good and I congratulate both of them.

Today gives us great hope. Restrictions on inter-county travel, masses, hospitality, click-and-collect services, barbers and hairdressers are to be loosened soon. This is really positive. For people's mental health, it is important that we now look forward. From listening to the radio as I drove here this morning, things seem to be really positive. It is to be hoped that the Taoiseach will announce all these measures this evening. I also welcome the fact that, from next Tuesday, families will be able to schedule four visits to a nursing home per week.

People's mental health has been significantly impacted by this pandemic. As the number of people vaccinated increases, are we going to see the reopening of day services in the mental health sector? There have been virtual sessions and some one-to-one visits but it is very important to get back to services in person. I commend Alone, its staff and volunteers and those who operate its national support line, which was set up in collaboration with the Department and the HSE. Alone reports that, in the past year, the helpline has received 49,000 calls and that the service has made more than 138,000 phone calls to older people who needed support. Alone highlights the negative impacts of this pandemic on the mental and physical health of older people. It has called for a stakeholder group of older adults to inform the Government on ways to support older people now as we have supported them during the pandemic. Is this something into which the Minister of State is looking?

As we cautiously reopen - and I know we have to be very cautious - what are we doing to support those older people who report continued anxiety? When will the messaging tell them that they are safe? Many community services for older people are still closed and, in some cases, home care has been stopped while families have been unable to visit because of continued restrictions. The Minister of State spoke about day services. I welcome that but what is the roadmap? What campaign are we to run or what information is to be provided? Communication is key. Perhaps the Minister of State can come back to me with some answers.


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