More facilities needed on the ground for mental health

14 July 2017

Speaking on the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill, Labour Party spokesperson on Health, Alan Kelly TD, raised concerns about the level of resources being provided to A Vision for Change.

“I congratulate Deputy Browne and his party on this Bill, which is a very good Bill. I do not believe in “new politics” but this is an example of something we can all support. I was very much taken by a small nugget in Deputy Browne’s speech when he said that there are many advocates for the change we are making here – those who came before the Deputy and those who came before me and, dare I say it, all of us here. I know and appreciate what the Deputy meant by that. He is dead right. There were many people before us who have advocated for this change. Ultimately, this Bill is about dignity, human rights and, most of all, autonomy. It is a very welcome change and something we in the Labour Party very much support and believe needs to be implemented in full. It is about giving people respect, it is about dignity and it is about changing the way we treat and think about people. It is a very good Bill.

“The Oireachtas committee is all well and good but it cannot be a talking shop. It actually has to do something. I know because I have been part of many of these things before. I want the Minister of State to act rather than participate and I believe he will. I congratulate and thank all of those organisations which have been advocates for this change and further changes that will not be part of this Bill but which they continuously advocate for on behalf of people who suffer from mental health issues. Let us be honest about it. There is not a single family in Ireland, including my own, that has does not have members with mental health issues. The people who advocate on behalf of those people are powerful people. They are great people and I acknowledge them today.

“A Vision for Change is a policy that, being implemented, needs resources. Everyone has talked about resources here. The lack of staff – the lack of positions being filled – across the country is deeply worrying. We need to find out what is going on. Sometimes we all say that it is an issue of finance but I am not sure it is the case in this situation. What is going on here with regard to filling the positions across the country? We are all public representatives and we are all trying to help who come into our clinics every week but I often find that the reason people cannot get help is because there are no people there to help them. I do not believe it is actually about finance and funding these positions. What can we do to ensure that these positions are filled to help the people who need help? If the Minister of State could be honest with us and tell us that it is really about getting people who are qualified into those positions and that it is not about bureaucracy or money, it will be easy for us to explain because I believe it could be that.

“The second issue concerns facilities across the country. Part of A Vision for Change involves providing facilities across the country. I represent Tipperary. We simply do not have facilities. I am not alone. There are other people in this House who are in a similar situation. The principle of A Vision for Change is right but we lack the facilities on the ground to help people and we need to look at and address that. We need to rethink that a bit. I think the principle of the strategy is right but the actual facilities are not there.

“What is going on with regard to filling positions because, ultimately, that is the most important issue? Every week, I hear from people with family issues and concerns. We simply do not have the professionals in the system to help these people. I speak to senior people in the HSE and across the board. I do not think it is a willingness issue. I do not always want to come in here and give out because I do not think it is a willingness issue. I think they are willing and want to help but we do not have the people in the system if there are only 24 hours in a day so let us figure what the logjam issue here is. If the Minister of State can help with that in the next few months, he will certainly make a huge improvement.

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