The manager of a low-cost Wexford counselling service is calling on TUSLA and the HSE to reinstate the funding which it lost during the recession.
Calling for additional support, Michael Dillon, who runs Family Life Service, said. "We've lost 50% of Tusla counselling funding since 2011 because of the economic crash and that's never been replaced."
With a current waiting list of more than 50 people, FLS takes referrals from the HSE, TUSLA and local GPs and has provided over 60,000 sessions of low cost counselling to the Wexford community in the past 30 years, much of it to those who experience marginalisation.
Having addressed his concerns at an event hosted by the Association for Agency Based Counselling and Psychotherapy in Ireland (AACPI) at Clayton Whites Hotel, Mr Dillion told this newspaper that the purpose of the meeting was to, 'target the funding spend of key funding stakeholders such as Tusla and the HSE mental health services'.
Currently FLS relies on limited funding from the HSE, TUSLA, the Diocese of Ferns and client donations to ensure its services, which cater for people who don't have medical cards but are unable to meet the costs of private counselling, continue to operate.
However, the centre is predominately run by volunteers who are either fully accredited professionals or qualified and awaiting accreditation. The lack of remuneration for these professionals is a major obstacle to the development of the service and the Mr Dillon sees this as damaging to the profession as a whole.
'We pay two therapists, at under half the rate, with the rest working on a voluntary basis. This cannot continue. For the service to grow and expand we need the stakeholders such as TUSLA and the HSE to restore and increase funding and to provide a financial commitment to support the growing need for a more differentiated quality counselling service for the people and families of Wexford.'
Admitting that, in the past because of the nature of the service, they had been reluctant to speak for themselves, Mr Dillon said this was no longer the case and that he and his colleagues at FLS welcomed the opportunity to showcase the very valuable service offered by FLS on Tuesday in Clayton' Whites to demonstrate the vital work being done in the provision of counselling service in the area of mental health and to use this as an opportunity to push for more State grants.
Discussing the negative impact of the cuts to the service, Mr Dillon said it had prevented FLS from developing services. FLS has undertaken work to identify gaps in services locally. These include child and adolescent counselling, counselling for parents who are in the process of separating, parenting programmes and working with the elderly.