Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health, Disability & Special Needs Colm Keaveney is accusing the Government of raiding the budget for mental health and re-directing the funds to other areas within the health service.  This so called “ring-fenced” money has not been spent on mental health services, and could be diverted to alleviate other pressure points, such as the overcrowding or Fair Deal crises.

Deputy Keaveney commented, “Minister Kathleen Lynch has utterly failed to bring about the changes she promised to improve our mental health services.  Money that was due to be protected and spent solely on mental health services hasn’t materialised, and there are major problems in filling specialist staff vacancies.  Only €5m of a €20m budget for mental health staffing in 2014 has been spent in the sector to date, while €10m was re-allocated to the overall health budget.

“Minister Lynch has been completely unable to protect the mental health budget, which was designed to be ring-fenced every year.  The €35m allocated for 2015 is €15m less than the commitments given in the Programme for Government, and falls well short of what is needed to sustain or attempt to improve the services available.

“It is a scandal that young people with psychiatric problems are still being admitted to adult psychiatric units, with 90 young people being treated in adult units last year, and despite promises to improve the situation, the HSE has admitted that its unlikely to meet its targets for 2015.  How can the Minister stand by as her budget is raided and redirected?  It is not acceptable that the Government is continuing to rob Peter to pay Paul and putting our mental health services at risk.

“I have grave concerns that the mental health budget will be put under intense pressure this year if funds are re-allocated to other health care crises.  Health Minister Leo Varadkar has committed to providing more resources to deal with Emergency Department overcrowding; this money has to be found within the 2015 Budget allocation and the Government’s record would indicate that it could see the money taken from mental health.

“Minster Lynch can no longer afford to stand idly by while successive Health Ministers use the mental health budget as a contingency plan.  In order for mental health services to be maintained and protected, the Minister cannot allow its budget to be systematically plundered in exercises which are merely designed to attempt to balance the books”.