Future of counselling service for young people secure

Pictured are Eilis Hogan, Goodman Medical; Barry Moore, Hannah Moore + Curley; Sinead Keogh, IBEC; and Petra Schindler-Baur, EPO at the recent medtech event, hosted by the Irish Medtech Association, in the g Hotel. Photo Martina Regan.

Pictured are Eilis Hogan, Goodman Medical; Barry Moore, Hannah Moore + Curley; Sinead Keogh, IBEC; and Petra Schindler-Baur, EPO at the recent medtech event, hosted by the Irish Medtech Association, in the g Hotel. Photo Martina Regan.

The immediate future of a local counselling service for young people - which helped 800 children and teenagers since it was set up five years ago - is secure following a decision by the HSE West to fund its work for the rest of the year.

There were fears that the the mental health charity Youth Work Ireland Galway would not be able to continue operating its counselling service from September due to lack of funds.

However, following a meeting on Monday between local politicians and HSE management the service was given a last minute reprieve.

The organisation has provided free counselling on a shoestring budget for the past five years in Galway city, Tuam, Ballinasloe and Loughrea for 12 to 21-year-olds.

Some 190 young people in Galway, Ballinasloe, Tuam and Loughrea accessed the counselling service in 2016 - 154 of them were in the 12 to 15 age group.

Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton said she was delighted that the immediate future of the service is secure.

"Having met with the HSE and made the case for the importance of this service continuing in operation, it has agreed to fund the service for the rest of the year. In addition, the HSE has agreed to work with Youth Work Ireland Galway to secure more stable funding for the counselling service so that it may continue in future years."

She outlined that the HSE was represented at the meeting by Tony Canavan, chief officer of its Community Healthcare Organisation.

"I would like to thank Mr Canavan for the speed with which he responded to our concerns. This issue was only made known to him by me last week and he immediately agreed to my request that he meet with Youth Work Ireland and local representatives," she said.

"My colleagues Deputies Catherine Connolly, Sean Canney, Anne Rabbitte, Senator Trevor O'Clochartaigh and Cllr Niamh Byrne also deserve credit for highlighting this issue both locally and nationally in recent days and attending the meeting."

She pointed out that Youth Work Ireland provides a range of "very important and valuable services" to promote and protect young people's mental health.

"I highlighted the importance of its counselling service in the Dáil last week when I raised the issue with the Minister of State with responsibility for mental health, Jim Daly. I will be meeting him again this week in relation to the same subject," said the Deputy for Galway West and South Mayo.

“The counselling service is vital to the young people of Galway. It is the only service of its kind where a doctor's referral is not necessary. Any young person can walk in the door and talk through their difficulties with experienced and highly qualified counsellors."

Deputy Catherine Connolly said the youth counselling centre provides an essential service to young children and teenagers.

"It meets a specific need not being met by Jigsaw and in fact complements that organisation which provides a listening support service to teenagers from 15 years upwards."

She said Youth Work Ireland provides a unique service in that its counselling is free, it takes places in accessible locations and in a space that is safe and suitable for its target age group.

"Of particular note is that parents can refer without a GP referral and there is a short waiting list.

"Given the quality and nature of this essential service it is incredible that the organisation has never had a guaranteed source of State funding and struggles from year to year to remain open."

Deputy Connolly said she raised the matter as an urgent issue in the Dáil last Tuesday and the Minister of State for Mental Health, Jim Daly promised to take a hands-on approach and revert back to her within a week.

"In relation to an ongoing stable source of funding into the future, it was also confirmed that the organisation should submit an application for funding under the Section 39 process."

Deputy Connolly said this was a positive step but pressure must be maintained to ensure that adequate ongoing funding was provided not only to enable the youth counselling service to remain open but to urgently extend its service to Conanemara and Gort.

"In this regard, a clear need for the counselling service has been identified in Carna, Clifden and Gort. The approximate sum required to enable this to happen is €62,250, a tiny percentage of the mental health budget and is in fact saving the HSE money."

East Galway Independent Alliance TD Seán Canney said local Oireachtas members are anxious to ensure that funding for Youth Work Ireland's counselling service was put on a "proper footing" for next year.

"The commitment to provide the funds to secure the service for the remainder of 2017 was our first priority and now that the funding is secure in the short term, we must seek a long term solution. We will seek to liaise with the Department of Health and Minister Daly and are arranging a meeting with Minister Daly this week, prior to the summer recess, to discuss the matter further.

"The counselling service provided by Youth Work Ireland to young people aged 12 to 15 in Tuam, Loughrea, Ballinasloe and Galway city is vital and long-term funding must be achieved to secure the future of this important service."

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