Simon Harris seeks more funds for mental health

Minister for Health ‘acutely aware’ extra resources needed after funds diverted

Minister for Health  Simon Harris said  it was important that money assigned to a certain area was spent on those services. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Health Simon Harris said it was important that money assigned to a certain area was spent on those services. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The mental health budget could be given additional funds as part of the revised estimates for the Department of Health.

Minister for Health Simon Harris is in discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure about increased spending ceilings for his department.

It is understood Mr Harris is seeking more money for mental health services.

Speaking to The Irish Times, the Minister said he was “acutely aware” of the pressures and the need for additional resources.

Mr Harris also criticised the decision to divert €12 million of the €35 million allocated to mental health services.

“We need to make sure that money that was allocated for certain areas . . . is spent in certain areas.

“The HSE service plan did make it clear there would be a time lag between money being allocated to the sector and money being spent in the sector, and it could put that time lag to use in other parts of the health service.

“But I am actively considering this with Minister [of State at the Department of Health] Helen McEntee over the coming weeks to see if anything can be further done in terms of advancing mental health services next year.”

Budget raided

It was heavily resisted by then minister of State at the department of health Kathleen Lynch.

The decision sparked an angry response from campaign groups and Opposition parties.

Mr Harris said he believed it was important that money assigned to a certain area was spent on those services.

The Fine Gael-Labour programme for government committed to a €35 million spend in this area. The new programme for government does not make any such funding commitment.

The Department of Health is one of a number of departments seeking additional resources from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

HSE overspend

Health Service Executive

Mr Harris said the Taoiseach and the Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe had both made it clear in the Dáil the expenditure ceilings would be examined.

The Minister said: “I need to have my discussions in the first place with Cabinet colleagues first and then the Oireachtas, but I am having ongoing discussions about this.

“This is about seeking to balance available funding across all of the various service areas to achieve the best possible outcomes for the greatest number of service users and prioritise areas of greatest need.”

The Department of Justice is also requesting a multimillion increase in its expenditure ceilings. The majority of the money is to deal with Garda overtime.

The revised estimates are expected to be presented to the Dáil within a fortnight for a vote.

The Government’s ambition is to address some of the overruns mid-year to avoid needing additional funds at the end of the year.

Under new European rules supplementary estimates are banned. Money would have to be found from the current expenditure pot.