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Budget 2014

TDs to be told: 'Coalition needs to live up to staffing promises in mental health'

Mental Health Reform will address TDs and Senators today on issues in the sector; the group is highlighting shortfalls in promised staffing levels and concerns about ring-fencing of funding.

THE CONTINUED SHORTFALL in staffing in mental health services will be highlighted today as representatives from Mental Health Reform outline their pre-Budget submission to members of the Oireachtas Finance Committee.

It had been promised that 477 staff would be hired this year for community mental health teams, working in areas like suicide prevention. However, many of these posts may now go unfilled as a result of overspending in the health sector.

The campaign group says the Government is not living up to its commitments. According to Director of Mental Health Reform Orla Barry: “The July HSE Staffing Census shows the net increase in staff between December 2012 and July 2013 was just 192″.

“This shortfall exists despite the Government mental health policy A Vision for Change recommending that more than 1,000 additional staff were needed for mental health services.”

The group — which represents 37 charities and organisations, including the likes of Console and Focus Ireland — says the coalition must also honour its Programme for Government commitment to ring-fence €35 million each year for community mental health services.

“We are concerned that the €35 million allocated for 2013 will be delayed,” Barry told TheJournal.ie.

“Despite the commitment to an additional €35 million in 2012, real year-end expenditure in 2012 was €4 million less than the previous year at €682 million.”

The group will also highlight the importance of supporting people to live in the community, through the extension of supported employment and further investment in housing for people with a mental health disability.

The Oireachtas Finance Committee will hear from a total of 15 civil society groups across four sessions today: The Irish Medical Organisation, The Carers Association and The Alzheimer Society of Ireland will also address the Committee in the morning; in the afternoon, the sessions will include submissions from the likes of ICTU and the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed.

Read: New campaign aims to curb suicide amongst farmers >

President Higgins: Stigma a major barrier to suicide prevention >

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