Fianna Fáil has accused the Government of failing miserably on its commitment to supply 477 posts for community mental health services last year, with new figures showing that 38% of the posts remaining unfilled.

The figures were confirmed by Minister of State Kathleen Lynch in reply to a Parliamentary Question from Fianna Fáil’s Spokesperson on Mental Health Colm Keaveney TD.

Deputy Keaveney explained, “The Government promised to deliver an additional 477 posts in frontline community health services last year in line with its obligations under A Vision for Change. It’s now been confirmed that they are failing miserably to keep that promise, with more than a third of those posts still lying vacant.

“Of the posts approved last year, just 56% were filled by the end of March this year. A further 26 staff were due to start after March. The result is that we are now nearly half way through 2014, and 184 posts of the posts that were due to be delivered in 2013 are still vacant.

“The Minister has also admitted that the HSE is having ‘difficulty’ finding qualified staff to fill some of the vacant posts. I believe they just haven’t tried anywhere near hard enough. If this really was a priority for the Government, these critical frontline posts would have been filled long ago.

“It’s further evidence that the Government has taken its eye off the ball when it comes to tackling the shocking gaps in mental health care in our communities. It’s just the latest in a litany of failures when it comes to the State’s duty of care towards people with mental health difficulties. Not only has the Government dismantled specialised mental health care units like St Brigid’s in Ballinasloe, it is failing to keep its promise to off-set this with a boost community mental health care provision.

“I am calling on Minister Kathleen Lynch to immediately outline a time-frame for the filling of these 184 vacant posts. I am also calling on the Minister to make a firm commitment that her Government will not break its promise again next year in relation to additional funding for mental health services. There is no doubt that the €15 reduction this year is making an impact on the ground. It’s not good enough for the Government to simply claim that mental health is a priority – they have to match their words with actions. The reality is that we still do not have anywhere near an adequate level of support for people with mental health difficulties.”