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Budget must show 'renewed commitment to mental health', says Hourigan

The Green Party is holding its convention online this weekend.

Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

GREEN PARTY SPOKESPERSON for Health Neasa Hourigan has said that additional funding needs to be allocated to mental health, disability services and maternal care to cope with the effects of Covid-19 on the health sector.

Speaking at the Green Party’s online party convention this morning, Hourigan said that the government’s winter plan had not allocated enough funding towards mental health.

Hourigan said that Covid-19 has put people under “immense pressure” and called for the budget to show a “renewed commitment to mental health and mental health funding”.

She said that Ireland’s issue with handling healthcare is not a lack of policy, but a lack of implementation.

“We know what we need to do [on mental health] and the policies that we should be enacting. We need to see funding and we need to see implementation,” Hourigan said.

At the start of this week, the government announced that €10 million was being put towards supporting the resumption of day services and enhanced home support services for disability service users under the National Action Plan on Covid-19.

However, Hourigan said that the €10 million funding was only a “drop in the ocean” for people who use services like day centre supports.

“There would be a lot of people for who their services have, out of necessity, shut down, and so we would be hoping to see far more funding come towards disability services in the next few weeks,” she said.

Amid government plans to continue the use of private hospitals in tackling Covid-19, Hourigan said that there needs to transparency and oversight in the relationship between the government and the private hospitals.

“There does need to be oversight when we are funnelling a huge amount of funds to something like a private hospital and we are hoping to see further information on how that is working in the coming weeks,” Hourigan said.

Hourigan said that there are “high levels” of people in crisis in Ireland and that that often begins in the teenage years and early 20s, and that supports for young people need to be strengthened, as well as supports for members of the Traveller and Roma community.

“Coronavirus has cut through the difficulties with moving system change in the health service and I think we should seize that and be brave.”

Hourigan said that key areas from the Programme For Government would need to be issues around women’s and children’s health.

She said that the Green Party wants to see a “huge amount” of additional support for issues like breastfeeding and maternal care.

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 ”We’ve seen Covid-19 has had an impact on those services. That’s unsurprising, because obviously hospitals are at full capacity and under huge amounts of pressure.”

“We can see women reporting and emailing stories around their experience of perhaps not being able to access support from their partners. We’re hoping that the both Department of Health and the Minister for Health can work with us to improve that situation a little bit.” 

Hourigan also said that supports around drug users and addiction services need to be improved, and that the issues of drugs should move away from a question of criminality to a question of health.

The Green Party convention is running online this weekend, with members voting on motions and listening to speakers.

Later today, Deputy Party Leader Catherine Martin will tell members that the party must “keep fighting, campaigning, agitating for green change, green values, at every level”. 

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