Only child counselling services in Co Donegal to stop operating from mid-March

Only Child Counselling Services In Co Donegal To Stop Operating From Mid-March
Services at the pastoral centre in Letterkenny and all outreach centres in the county are to end from mid-March.
Share this article

By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

A pastoral centre has said that it will stop offering counselling services in Co Donegal after it was not able to get funding for a full-time director of counselling.

The Raphoe Diocesan Pastoral Services said it is the only provider of child and adolescent counselling in the county and that its services ending would create “a dangerous void” for young people’s mental health services.


It is understood that the centre had helped people affected by the Creeslough tragedy, in which 10 local people were killed at a petrol station explosion in October 2022.

In a statement issued by the centre’s board of directors on Monday, it said it had received confirmation that the HSE and Tusla would not be funding roles at the not-for-profit organisation.

“The rapid growth of the service in response to surging demand for counselling has resulted in an acute necessity for the funding of a full-time director of counselling and a coordinator,” it said.

“Despite consistent, exhaustive and explorative efforts in recent months to secure much-needed rolling investment from the HSE and Tusla to finance these positions, it’s now been confirmed that no funding will be made available.


“Consequently, the Raphoe Diocesan Pastoral Services CLG has been forced to take the extremely difficult decision to wind down its counselling provision across Donegal.”

Services at the pastoral centre in Letterkenny and all outreach centres in the county are to end from mid-March.

The HSE’s Community Healthcare Organisation Area said in response that “a standard application and negotiation process exists within the HSE for funding non-statutory agencies”.

“This process is used by the HSE to approve funding to a voluntary/non-statutory agency in relation to health and personal social services through Service Level Agreements. There is currently no such agreement with this agency.


“Agencies can apply for this funding through an online application form,” it said, linking to

But director of counselling Liam Cannon, who was to leave his one-day-per-week post on January 2, said that the window to apply for that service-level agreement closed four or five months ago.

When Mr Cannon announced his resignation in September, he recommended that he be replaced by a full-time director of counselling since the service was so big it wouldn’t be possible to do one day a week.

There were 3,000 counselling sessions delivered across seven locations in the county in 2023, and in six years there have been almost 15,000 sessions delivered.


Mr Cannon is now staying in post temporarily to allow services to continue and try to appoint a full-time director.

“Our waiting lists currently have around 360 people on it, and that’s growing daily but has ceased from today,” he told PA.

“The HSE may well quote that they have this national standard.

“However, we are taking referrals from the HSE constantly.


“We’re taking them from psychiatry, psychology, social work, GPs refer to us.

“Those are the people mostly referring into us.

“They haven’t quite thought about ‘ok well if this service actually closes, that’s going to be another 3,000 sessions that we need to quote for for next year’.

“The people working in our services do not earn the same level of money at all that they would if they were therapists in the HSE.

“So we’re actually saving the state a huge amount of money.

“So to come with a blanket statement, to close the door on this, to me is not acceptable at this point.”

The board said in its statement that it was “fully aware of the devastation this will cause to clients, people on the waiting list, counsellors, support staff, students dependent on placements, and so many communities across Donegal”.

“As the only counselling service for children and adolescents in the county, the cessation of this service will have far reaching consequences and create a dangerous void in the provision of mental health services for young people in Donegal.

“It’s envisaged that the situation will become even more bleak for Donegal communities, as demand for counselling services steadily grows.”

The Diocese of Raphoe has funded the service since 1992, with funding also provided through charitable contributions and donations.

In more recent times, Tusla has part-funded service delivery for children and adolescents, but no public funding has been given for adult counselling, management, staffing or administration costs, the organisation said.

In a statement to PA, Tusla said it was disappointed to hear of the centre’s announcement.

“Tusla is one agency that provides funding to Raphoe Diocesan Pastoral Services for counselling services to children, young people and families and it is important to note that Tusla has not reduced funding to the service.

“Over the last number of months, Raphoe Diocesan Pastoral Services have indicated that an increase in core funding allocation is required to deliver their current service model.

“During this period Tusla has engaged with the organisation regarding its financial difficulties and will continue to engage with the organisation.

“We are conscious of the impact of this closure on children, young people, and families, and we will continue to engage with all stakeholders in the community, to look at how existing funding can be utilised to continue to provide supports.”

Read More

Message submitting... Thank you for waiting.

Want us to email you top stories each lunch time?

Download our Apps
© 2024, developed by Square1 and powered by