Funding of €10 million allocated for mental health services during the Covid-19 pandemic remains unspent more than six months after it was announced.
Demand for mental health services soared as the country entered lockdown at the start of the year, with a surge in areas such as referrals for eating disorder treatment.
In response, the Government in February announced €10 million would be allocated to mental health supports.
However, Mental Health Reform chief executive Fiona Coyle told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health on Wednesday that the money remains unspent.
“The 10 million announced in February 2021 for mental health impact of Covid-19 has not yet been spent. This funding must be ring-fenced and proposed initiatives in place by the end of this year,” she said.
Bernadette Grogan, a policy coordinator at the same organisation, said the already-announced funding must be separate from any new mental health funding in the upcoming Budget.
“We would be concerned that you know, that 10 million for Covid initiatives is spent and is progressed separately from whatever other measures are coming forward in Budget 2022,” she said.
Ms Grogan added that Mental Health Reform is calling for at least an additional €85 million allocation for mental health supports in the upcoming Budget.
Advocates say Ireland’s mental health funding is almost half of what it should be, with 5.1 per cent of Ireland’s health budget set aside for mental health last year.
The Government has said the €10 million in funding will be used sometime in the last three months of the year.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on mental health, Mark Ward, said the announcement of the funding at the beginning of the year was “window dressing to generate cheap headlines”.
“Last year I accused the Government of making announcements on additional funding for mental health supports as window dressing to generate cheap headlines,” he said.
“It gives me no pleasure to hear that I was right. In fact, they were not cheap headlines; they were free headlines as the €10 million announced in additional spending for mental health in February 2021 remains unspent.
“The latest news we have is that there may be a plan in quarter four of this year for this funding.
“This is not good enough. There is a complete lack of urgency by this Government to provide mental health services people need right now.”