Written answers

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Photo of Neasa HouriganNeasa Hourigan (Dublin Central, Green Party)
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875. To ask the Minister for Health if he plans to regulate crisis pregnancy agencies and the information and services they provide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8283/22]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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The State-provided My Options information service is the first port of call for someone with an unplanned pregnancy seeking information and support. Professional counsellors can provide information on all options, including continued pregnancy supports and abortion services.

The HSE recommends that people should only visit a HSE-funded unplanned pregnancy counselling agency. A list of HSE-funded unplanned pregnancy agencies is available at www2.hse.ie/services/unplanned-pregnancy-support-services/find-a-face-to-face-unplanned-pregnancy-counselling-service.html

The HSE continuously monitors the situation and promotes the My Options service through a number of channels, including by posting unplanned pregnancy support messages across social media channels, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to signpost the My Options website, and radio advertisements delivered during the year.

The HSE has advised that as the My Options website (myoptions.ie) is now well-established, the organic search performs exceptionally well for keywords relating to unplanned pregnancy and abortion. My Options Google search advertisements also perform well, with a high impression share.

The Deputy may recall that in 2019, a disingenuous agency began using ‘My Options’ in the name of their website, causing confusion and putting people at risk of attending a disingenuous service. To counteract this, the HSE issued a statement to the media, reminding people to only visit a HSE-funded unplanned pregnancy counselling agency, and to check for the HSE logo or name if looking for information online. A High Court Case was also taken against the owner of a website, which was settled in favour of the HSE.

The HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme has produced guidelines to assist HSE funded counselling service providers in responding to complaints in this area.

In addition, the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 provides for the protection of the public by promoting high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence through statutory registration of health and social care professions designated under the Act. The professions of counsellor and psychotherapist were designated for regulation by the Minister under the Act and will be regulated by CORU.

Regulations to designate the two professions under the Act and to establish the Counsellors and Psychotherapists Registration Board were made in 2018. The Board was appointed in February 2019 and held its inaugural meeting in May 2019. The work of the Counsellors and Psychotherapists Registration Board is significantly more challenging than for registration boards for some of the more established professions, owing to the different and complex entry paths into these professions, the variety of titles used, and the variety and number of courses and course providers.  

The Board is now undertaking the substantial work required to open the registers for counsellors and psychotherapists. This work includes the scoping of professions and titles and the consideration of the minimum qualifications to be required of existing practitioners and for future graduates. 

When the Board has opened the register and the transitional period to allow existing practitioners to register is completed, it will be an offence for anyone not registered to use any protected titles. All registrants will also be subject to the fitness to practice process in CORU which provides for sanctions against registrants when complaints are proven.


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