Wednesday 13 December 2017

Mental health gets just €15m despite €35m Budget vow

Health Minister Simon Harris Picture: Frank McGrath
Health Minister Simon Harris Picture: Frank McGrath
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The Government was at the centre of a "dishonest spin" row yesterday after it emerged a Budget-day pledge to give an extra €35m to alleviate the crisis in mental health services will amount to as little as €15m in spending next year.

The news was met with shock and dismay by the organisation Mental Health Reform, which said the state of many psychiatric services was leaving many vulnerable people in distress, including hundreds of children who were waiting more than a year to see a psychiatrist.

Efforts by the Irish Independent yesterday to speak to Health Minister Simon Harris about the controversy - and query why a Department of Health Budget-day press release failed to mention the €15m figure - were unsuccessful.

The clarification on reduced funding first emerged in a Dáil question put by Fianna Fáil's James Browne to Minister of State Helen McEntee.

She confirmed that just €15m of this additional money would be spent in 2017.

Questioned by the Irish Independent yesterday, she said she "was clear on Budget day that the funding would be 'initiated' in 2017, but not all would be spent because of the time lag in taking on staff and preparations for the development of new services".

But Dr Shari McDaid, of Mental Health Reform, said she was shocked at the news due to the overstretched and under-resourced state of mental health services.

"This would represent only a 1.8pc increase in funding for mental health compared to the 2016 Budget, much less than the 7.4pc increase in revenue spending for the health budget as a whole," she said.

"Mental health has not been shown parity of esteem, much less the priority it needs by Government.

"Staffing levels in child and adolescent mental health services are 48pc below recommended levels, while across the mental health services staffing is 21pc lower than recommended.

"Mental health services have not recovered from the economic crisis."

Irish Independent

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