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Child waiting over 3 years for mental health assessment, Taoiseach told

There are 6,000 children waiting for primary care psychology appointments, the Dáil was told today.

Last Monday I met a family with a six-and-a-half-year old child. They had been contacting the services since the child was three and a half and still cannot get an overall assessment of need.

WHEN QUESTIONED ON the long waiting lists for children’s mental health services, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar acknowledged the need for dramatic improvements.

shutterstock_595138475 Source: Aynur_sib via Shutterstock

In a Dáil debate today, Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin listed the number of children who are awaiting assessment to gain access to mental health services.

“Waiting lists to access services have jumped by 28% to 2,908 people.  The number of people waiting for longer than one year has increased by 78%,” he said.

There are 6,000 children waiting for primary care psychology appointments, 1,784 of whom have been waiting for longer than a year.

One of the reasons previously cited as contributing to long waiting lists to access mental health services was staff shortages and recruitment difficulties.

Martin said that only a third of all vacant posts were filled between 2015 and 2016. He said that hundreds of staff, possibly 600 posts, were needed by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to deal with the demand.

He said it was time to stop the spin, and “get on top of this for the sake of the families concerned”.

In response, Taoiseach Varadkar said that although the budget for mental health services had increased by €140 million since Fianna Fáil’s last year in power, there were questions around how the allocated money was used.

“The question we need to ask ourselves is why we are not getting better value for that investment and why we are not seeing significant improvements in services.

“The HSE has statutory responsibility for mental health services,” he said.

He announced that 114 additional assistant psychology posts would be advertised, and there would also be an increase in nursing undergraduates from 60 to 130 (both for this year).

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But Micheal Martin wasn’t happy with the Taoiseach’s response, and suggested parents wouldn’t be either.

Neither will they be satisfied with the passing of the buck and the sort of detached commentary that suggests it is somebody else’s job to do this.

“It is the government’s job to drill down and make sure that things get done.”

Martin said that Fianna Fáil had suggested making more effective use of non-governmental organisations to tackle stagnant waiting lists.

“We have met with resistance, inertia and have received no answers from either the former Minister or the government on this crucial question,” he said.

Read: Clash in Dáil sees Mary Lou leave chamber after jibes from Taoiseach

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