The Minister for Mental Health has pledged to do his “utmost” to secure long term funding for a local counselling service which has helped 800 children and teenagers since it was set up five years ago.
Minister Jim Daly visited Youth Work Ireland’s local service on Monday - at the request of Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton - to discuss its future funding.
There were growing fears earlier this year that this free service would not be able to continue from September due to lack of finance. A group of local cross party politicians and representatives raised their concerns about the ongoing funding crisis with the minister. Following a meeting then, between local politicians and HSE management, it was given a last minute reprieve.
Deputy Naughton said the minister met staff and service users on Monday morning and saw the “tremendous work” being done.
“He assured everyone present that he would do his upmost to secure funding for the organisation into the future. Following the winding up of the Maureen O’Connell memorial fund, Youth Work Ireland has experienced a significant decrease in funding which is affecting its counselling service to the extent that it is feared that it may have to close.”
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 those areas accessed the service in 2016 - 154 of them were in the 12 to 15 age group.
Deputy Naughton stated that young people can access the service without a doctor’s referral. “Anyone can walk in the door and talk through their difficulties with experienced and highly qualified counsellors.