Wednesday, 2 March 2022
Department of Health
Mental Health Services
165. To ask the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on his engagements on the whole-of-Government youth mental health pathfinder unit; the governance, legal complexities and issues that have been raised in relation to the proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11401/22]
The proposal to establish a cross-governmental youth mental health Pathfinder unit, with participation from the Department of Health, the Department of Education and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, received Ministerial approval during the previous Government. Its establishment is a priority in the current Programme for Government.
The proposal is to formalise a new model for collaborative working within Government and place a Pathfinder unit on a statutory footing, through section 12 of the Public Service Management Act 1997. As this section has not been used before, there has been considerable engagement between the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on how this model could be provided for in a statutory instrument. Amongst other things, it involves identifying suitable functions to be delegated from Ministers to an individual, ensuring those functions do not overlap with existing functions of officials in participating Departments, ensuring that reporting and governance arrangements are provided for at an appropriate frequency and ensuring that accounting arrangements for moneys provided from participating Departments to the Head of Unit are robust. These arrangements need to be fully developed and agreed by participating Departments, incorporated into a statutory instrument in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, and submitted to the Department of Public and Expenditure and Reform for further consideration.
The realignment of Departmental functions in the education sector, specifically the establishment of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, has necessitated some further consideration of the initial proposal and makeup of the Pathfinder unit.
The demands on both the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform during the pandemic have presented challenges to progressing the proposals. Nonetheless, the Department of Health has continued to engage with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to develop a robust implementation option.
The implementation of the Pathfinder project is a priority for me and I will continue to keep this matter under close review in the context of progressing Sharing the Vision.