Thursday, 29 April 2021
Covid-19, Mental Health and Older People: Statements
I thank Deputies for their contributions on such a wide-ranging topic. Several significant issues have been raised. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, for her response. I am sure she wishes to respond to as many more of the issues that were raised as possible.
The physical and mental health well-being of people has been a Government priority throughout the pandemic. The Government has funded a range of Covid-specific responses to allow specialist community and residential mental health services to remain open and operating near capacity while ensuring the safety of service users and staff, including €15 million in budget 2021 specifically to meet these challenges.
Mental health services have been particularly active in response to the pandemic and we have sought to be proactive through the cross-government well-being campaign entitled Keep Well, which has been promoting and supporting resilience and minding our physical and mental health. We are also supporting a range of telehealth and psychosocial support services which provide advice, help, reassurance and contact for people in what are very challenging times.
Within mental services, while we have acted to safeguard the well-being of the whole population, we have also targeted initiatives for priority groups. Measures include infection prevention and control measures in residential settings, the sole aim of which is to keep infection rates as low as possible and thereby save lives. In specialist community services, there has been a significant shift to online and telehealth provision to ensure that as much service delivery as possible can be maintained as safely as possible for everyone involved.
The spread of Covid-19 in communities has posed significant challenges for many areas of our services. We continue to progress through the pre-recovery phase of the Covid-19 pandemic with the planned easing of restrictions during March and April now complete. Through our collective efforts, we are keeping the virus under control as the vaccine programme is gaining momentum. It is vital that we ensure our overall approach continues to be cautious and sustainable over the immediate, medium and longer terms. However, our clear message is that the vaccine programme is a key enabler to the reopening of society and the economy. It is continuing to progress well, with more than 1 million people now having received the first dose of the vaccine and more than 1.4 million doses administered overall. Our continued focus must be to protect the most vulnerable through an efficient roll-out of the vaccination programme.