Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health Colm Keaveney TD says the Government is raiding the budget for mental health to put towards other services in the health sector, including the provision of free GP care for the under 6s. The Galway East TD has accused the Health Minister of failing the most vulnerable children in our society in favour of a catch-all plan, which ultimately paves the way for compulsory health insurance.
Despite the massive gaps in mental health provision, Fianna Fáil has learned that the HSE failed to spend the money allocated to mental health services in 2013 and 2014.
Deputy Keaveney commented, “Despite the fact that thousands of children are waiting months, and in some cases years, for appointments with Early Intervention Teams, speech and language therapy and psychologists, the Government failed to spend the money allocated for mental health services in 2013 and 2014. Over the two years, the underspend amounted to over €68m.
“This is money which could have funded staff recruitment, the provision of specific psychiatric beds and wards for children, and reductions in waiting lists. Serious questions need to be answered as to why this money has gone unspent.
“I am extremely concerned that Ministers Varadkar and Lynch are continuing to collude in their practice of diverting much needed mental health funding to other areas within the health service. Is it a coincidence that the Government yesterday agreed on a deal to provide free GP care to the under 6s at an annual cost of €67m? Or is it the case that once again the Ministers are choosing to raid vital mental health funds to prop up other initiatives?
“The Government has admitted that the roll out of under 6s GP care is the first step in their flawed plan of compulsory health insurance. It may appear admirable on the surface, but the reality is that this blanket scheme will see the rich benefit, while GP charges will remain in place for children older than 6 with life limiting or chronic illnesses who have been refused a medical card. This is a deeply unfair and unequitable system and one which Fianna Fáil has been strongly opposed to since it was first suggested.
“This Government needs to reassess its priorities on healthcare. Fianna Fáil wants to ensure a fair system, which prioritises health care for the most vulnerable and those who cannot afford to pay towards their care, not the one size fits all template, which is failing adults and children alike, that is being peddled by Fine Gael and Labour”.