Dáil debates

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Financial Resolutions 2022 - Financial Resolution No. 6: General: Financial Resolution (Resumed)


4:25 pm

Photo of Mark WardMark Ward (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

There have been more smoke and mirrors tactics from the Minister in the mental health budget this year. I listened intently yesterday as his colleagues announced an increase of €57.8 million in mental health spending overall but of that, only €14 million is for additional funding for new measures. A total of €43 million is for existing levels of services. That is basically standing-still money. After the €57.8 million figure was read in the Dáil, the Minister tweeted that €72.8 million was actually allocated and he doubled down on that again in his contribution to the House. The €15 million that the Minister miraculously found down the back of a sofa somewhere has been allocated for 2022, not 2023. He has attempted to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Stakeholders who might have been singing the Minister's praise yesterday are already starting to see through this. Why was the €72.8 million figure not included in yesterday's budget book?

I am always very mindful of people watching who may be experiencing mental health difficulties. The last thing that they want to see is people like ourselves arguing the toss over budgets. They want and deserve to see solutions. Sinn Féin in government would have delivered over €81 million in real additional measures compared with the €14 million the Minister announced. We are not doing the sow's ear trick. In fact we are more like Ronseal: we do exactly what it says on the tin.

If I was Minister with responsibility for mental health I would have introduced measures including the expansion of CAMHS to young adults and an inpatient perinatal mother and baby mental health unit, a move to a 24-7 emergency mental health system and investment into early intervention for psychosis and for eating disorders. I welcome the announcement that the Minister will appoint a youth mental health lead because, by God, it is needed. The Maskey report into south Kerry has highlighted the abject failure in children's mental health services. Over 4,000 children are waiting for an appointment with CAMHS of whom 400 have been waiting for more than a year. Thousands of children have been refused treatment with CAMHS. Some 1,200 children arrived at emergency departments seeking mental health supports. There are 11,000 children waiting on primary care psychology service, of whom 4,000 have been waiting over a year. Things have just got worse under this Government.

I also welcome the new funding the Minister announced for trainee counsellor psychologists. That is something we have been calling for. Can he guarantee that when these trainees are qualified, they will be hired by the HSE? In the past five years, the HSE has spent over €38 million on salaries and fees for trainee clinical psychologists but did not hire one. I could go on but I am running out of speaking time. The Government is running out of time too but children simply do not have the time.


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