DEPUTY Michael McNamara has accused the government of being “deceitful” over its announcement that an extra €38 million has been provided for mental health services in the Budget.
Welcoming the total package of €50 million, Deputy McNamara claimed in the Dáil recently the assertion that €38 million is being provided for additional mental health services is “untrue and is simply playing with statistics”.
“Some €38 million is provided for additional services. On the face of it, this is very welcome and badly needed. This is, however, to be matched with €12 million for the existing level of services (ELS).
“Anybody who has anything to do with mental health provision would accept that the existing level of services, as paltry and deficient as it is, cannot be provided for €12 million.
“What then is the additional mental health budget announced today? To say that it is €38 million is, frankly, deceitful because it is not. There is a total package of €50 million, which I welcome.
“It is certainly more than it was but to say that it is €38 million more than it was is untrue and is simply playing with statistics.
“Churchill spoke of lies, damned lies and statistics. I welcome the additional funding for mental health but it is nowhere near €38 million and I would welcome clarity in that respect. We also need clarity as to whether that budget is ring-fenced.
“The last Minister of State with responsibility for mental health who had a ring-fenced budget, as far as I am aware, was Kathleen Lynch. That was a long time ago and even that budget was not quite as ring-fenced as it appeared.
“It was, perhaps, something like this €38 million.”
Deputy McNamara stressed the country needs a ring-fenced budget and all of the €50 million must go to mental health services.
If it is not ring-fenced, he warned it will inevitably fall victim to the apparent view of the Department of Health that mental health is not really health but something else.
“It seems to believe that acute hospitals are health and that nothing else really matters. This is an approach which has served us ill over recent years,” he claimed.
He was supported by Deputy Roisín Shorthall, who claimed €80 million needs to be invested in mental health services and stressed it is extremely regrettable that the budget has provided for less than half of that figure.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett said if the €38 million is added to the entire budget the actual proportion of the health budget to be spent on mental health will be less, in percentage terms, in 2021 than it was in 2020.
That is also against a background of where Ireland spend only 5% of its health budget on mental healthcare, as opposed to an average across Europe of about 12%.
Deputy Mattie McGrath said anybody with a modicum of reason who has assessed mental health knows that an investment of up to €100 million is needed
Minister for Public Expenditure, Michael McGrath, said he is delighted that mental health services are being prioritised in this budget, especially given the very difficult year Irish people have had. Deputy McGrath said about €38 million will be available to implement new measures under Sharing the Vision, the new national mental health strategy.
The Department of Health didn’t respond to Clare Champion queries about this issue.