Sir, – Both the Department of Health and the HSE recognise the importance of mental health services in Ireland and yet their message does not match the reality.
If counselling and psychotherapy are deemed essential services, why is VAT is charged at 13.5 per cent on those services? In a response to a parliamentary question on November 6th, 2018, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe stated that counsellors or psychotherapists registered with their registration boards will be exempt from VAT. However, these boards will not be ready to accept registrants until 2025.
As per Revenue guidelines, psychological and psychotherapy services are qualifying expenses that can be claimed against tax. To qualify for relief, the healthcare provider must be a registered practitioner. However, it is not possible for psychologists or psychotherapists to be registered practitioners as the appropriate registers either do not exist or are not open to registrants.
Public mental health services continue to be underfunded and oversubscribed, and the Government seems to rely on the charity sector to fill the gaps.
Last week the Department of Health announced an additional €343,824 per quarter to Pieta House for the provision of an extra 300 hours of counselling for high-risk clients. This works out at €1,146 per counselling hour, a fact highlighted by Mark Ward TD.
An effective and economical strategy to make mental health services more accessible would be to make counselling and psychotherapy VAT-exempt and to facilitate clients to claim back expenses for mental health costs. – Yours, etc,