Election 2016: FF would raise mental health spend ‘by €200m’

Claim coalition has raided mental health budgets to top up shortfalls elsewhere

Fianna Fáil spokesman on mental health Colm Keaveney said the Government and the responsible Minister of State, Kathleen Lynch, had failed in promise to ring fence an additional €37 million per annum for services.  Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on mental health Colm Keaveney said the Government and the responsible Minister of State, Kathleen Lynch, had failed in promise to ring fence an additional €37 million per annum for services. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

 

Fianna Fáil has said it will give a cast-iron commitment to increase funding for mental health services by €200 within five years if it is returned to government.

The party released a mental health policy document on Monday which also commits it to establishing a new Mental Health Authority.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on mental health Colm Keaveney said the Government and the responsible Minister of State, Kathleen Lynch, had failed in promise to ring fence an additional €37 million per annum for services.

He said senior ministers had raided that fund to spend on other priority areas and that this would not occur under a Fianna Fáil government.

“There’s a significant will within Fianna Fáil to ensure mental health budgets are protected,” he told reporters in Dublin. “We believe that that is best served by providing a Mental Health Authority that has no excuse but to spend its budget.”

Mr Keaveney said the staffing levels in the mental health area were about 3,000 posts short of what the current official policy, A Vision for Change, had recommended. He said that to achieve those staffing numbers, the budget would have to be increased from about €791 million per annum to €991 million per annum.

He said Fianna Fáil, in government, would commit to increasing the budget by an additional €40 million each year for five years to close that funding gap.

“Our ultimate aim is to create a society where mental health issues are treated in the community and not hidden away in isolation,” he said.

Waiting list

The Galway East TD said there was a three-year waiting list for some services and a situation still pertained where children were being treated for mental illnesses on adult wards. “That is an absolute no-no,” he said.

He said he was “absolutely appalled” that Taoiseach Enda Kenny made no reference intellectual disability, mental health, or disability in his ardfheis speech at the weekend and claimed Fine Gael’s policies were driven by focus groups.

His colleague Senator Thomas Byrne said Fine Gael did not know that it wanted in terms of tax policy, as it kept on changing position.

“Enda Kenny was talking about US-style tax cuts and abolishing USC. Michael Noonan reversed course on that. We have Dublin TD Catherine Byrne giving out about our taxation system at the ardfheis,” he said. “They do not know what they want.They want to get re-elected. That is Fine Gael’s only vision.”

On Mr Kenny’s refusal to answers questions about his willingness to deal with Independent TD Michael Lowry should a future coalition need his support, Mr Keaveney said: “The Taoiseach is wolf-whistling and probably communicating behind the scenes in a desperate measure to shore up support .”

However, when it was put to them that a previous Fianna Fáil government had relied on Mr Lowry’s support, both refused to be drawn on whether or not they would deal with the Tipperary TD, who drew adverse conclusions from the Moriarty Tribunal into payments to politicians.