Greater oversight on HSE mental health spending sought by TD

Harris says ‘not good enough’ that ring-fenced money spent elsewhere

Fine Gael TD Simon Harris was speaking at the publication today of a cross-party submission on mental health reform. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Fine Gael TD Simon Harris was speaking at the publication today of a cross-party submission on mental health reform. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

 

A Government TD has demanded greater public oversight of HSE spending to ensure money ring-fenced for mental health services was not siphoned away to other areas.

Fine Gael TD Simon Harris was speaking at the publication today of a cross-party submission on mental health reform, ahead of the Budget next month. It emerged during the summer that overspending by the HSE in non-mental health areas could put at risk €35 million ring-fenced for the recruitment of 477 new staff to work in the mental health sector.

Mr Harris said it was “simply not good enough” that the HSE was effectively spending money ring-fenced by the Oireachtas for mental health services, on other areas.

“When the Oireachtas passes a resolution that €35 million is to be ring-fenced for mental health, we mean it. It’s not good enough for the HSE to try and interpret policy, make up their own policy. When there’s €35 million ring-fenced for mental health as there was this year and hopefully again next year it’s not good enough for the HSE to just do as they wish with it.

“There should obviously, absolutely be greater oversight [over the HSE]. Mental health is one of the areas getting an increase in funding and yet we are still seeing the HSE not passing that increase on,” said Mr Harris.

The Cross-Party Oireachtas Group on Mental Health was established in 2010 to promote awareness of mental health issues across both Houses. It is open to all members and is convened by Mr Harris, Sinn Féin spokesman on health, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, TD, Robert Troy, TD (Fianna Fáil), Maureen O’Sullivan, TD (technical group) and Senator Susan O’Keeffe (Labour Party).

Mr Ó Caoláin, said there was “ insufficient evidence of the required change in realisation of the centrality of mental health in all our lives”.

He said however reform of social attitudes to people with mental health issue could not be left solely to the HSE. “We have so much to do as a society in terms of the rejection of people because of perceived failures in their lives - economic failures, challenges in their personal lives. There are undercurrents as to why people choose suicide the stigmas. there is a need for greater kindness, greater understanding and greater acceptance. We are all flawed. With the leadership of politicians and the HSE we all need to confront that.”

The group makes five recommendations in advance of Budget 2014, including that there be a tranche of €35 million ring-fenced for the sector and that it be spent in a “timely, efficient” manner; that any monies left over from the €35 million ring-fenced for this year be added to the mental health budget for next year, and, that more funding be allocated for the support of people with mental health issues to live in the community - in mainstream housing and supported employment.