Deputy Catherine Connolly very much welcomes confirmation from HSE management that funding will be made available to ensure that the Youth Counselling Service will not close its doors in September and will continue to operate in Galway City and County.
Deputy Connolly said the Youth Counselling Service provides an essential service to young children and teenagers from the age of 12 years to 21 years. Indeed she said it meets a specific need not being met by Jigsaw and in fact complements that service which provides a listening support service to teenagers from 15 years upwards.
Moreover she said this organization has provided counselling on a shoe string budget since 2012 in Galway City, Tuam, Ballinasloe and Loughrea, by accredited counsellors and has counselled approximately 800 young children and teenagers in that period of time. More specifically, 190 young people in Galway, Ballinasloe, Tuam and Loughrea accessed counselling in 2016 with 154 of them in the 12-15 age range.
It is a unique service in that the counselling is free of charge, takes places in accessible locations and in a space that is safe and suitable to the age group. Of particular note she said 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, said Deputy Connolly, that the organisation has never had a guaranteed source of state funding and struggles from year to year to remain open.
Following a public meeting last week, public representatives agreed to meet with HSE management as a matter of urgency and also to raise the issue in the Dáil.
Subsequent to those commitments Deputy Connolly raised the matter as an urgent topical issue in the Dáil last Tuesday and as a result the Minister of State for Mental Health Jim Daly promised to take a hands on approach and revert back to her within a week.
Separately at a meeting with HSE management on Monday, the 11th July in Merlin Park, it was confirmed that adequate funding would be provided to ensure that the service continued this year.
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 is a positive step but pressure has to be maintained to ensure that adequate ongoing funding is provided not only to enable the Youth Counselling Service to remain open but to urgently extend its service to Conamara 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 Euro which is a tiny percentage of the mental health budget and is in fact saving the HSE money.