Tánaiste defends budget mental health funding pledge

Government ‘playing with the figures’, Solidarity TD Paul Murphy claims

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy claimed the Government played with the mental health figures in last year’s budget and was doing so again this year. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy claimed the Government played with the mental health figures in last year’s budget and was doing so again this year. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has insisted that budget funding commitments on mental health are accurate, as the Government was accused of “playing with the figures”.

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy claimed the Government played with the figures in last year’s budget and was doing so again this year.

He said the announcement of €35 million extra in Budget 2018 was not honest because “€20 million of that was announced last year. It is an additional €15 million.”

He noted that the Government sent a letter on Thursday to the coalition of campaign groups Mental Health Reform stating that the money would be given out and that the Government strategy A Vision for Change would be implemented.

He said “I do not see the figures adding up”, however, as he highlighted the “explosion of reported mental health problems”. He noted stark figures that 10 people die every week by suicide in the State, which has the highest rate of suicide of girls in Europe.

Major determinant

Mr Murphy said inequality was a major determinant of mental illness and “children from the poorest households have a threefold greater risk of mental ill health than children from the richest households”.

The Dublin South West TD said between 20 per cent and 25 per cent of overall ill-health was caused by mental health problems but that less than 7 per cent of the health budget went on mental health.

Ms Fitzgerald said the mental health budget had increased by 28 per cent in six years, from €711 million in 2012 to €912 million in 2018, and she insisted the figures were correct.

“Budget 2018 allocates an additional €35 million to develop mental health services in 2018. The figures published are accurate.”

The Tánaiste added that the Minister for Health and the Minister of State had also committed an additional €55 million for 2019. “This means a total of €105 million in additional funding for A Vision for Change”, the Government’s blueprint, which is under review because “it is many years old”.

She stressed the Government wanted “to support in whatever way we can the development of proper mental health services throughout the country”.

A Vision for Change had been costed at €105 million. “The Minister has made it absolutely clear to the HSE that this is the funding it will have so it can plan, prepare and recruit staff.”