Business of Joint Committee (Resumed)

Is there any other business? Do members of the committee wish to raise any other matters?

Can I just ask about mental health services? We are dealing with that matter today, but I thought we would have also invited someone from the HSE to outline the challenges that it is facing on mental health services because the difficulty at the moment is whether there is capacity. That is to be looked at initially by this committee and then referred on to the sub-committee.

The people who are at the coalface are before the committee today. We also need to hear from the main provider of mental health services which is not giving us any information and it is important that representatives of the HSE come in to deal with this aspect of service and the new challenges that exist.

I accept what the Deputy is saying. We are looking first at gaps that exist in service provision but, unfortunately, we were not able to get the person the Deputy was looking for to attend this meeting. I hope that much of the work will go to the subcommittee but that does not mean that-----

I am clear on this. There is an issue about the HSE being answerable to this committee directly and this needs not to be sidelined as an issue to a subcommittee. I really think-----

I do not think anyone is talking about sidelining anything. The subcommittee will be doing work but that will not stop this committee dealing with mental health issues. If we, as a committee, decide that we want to bring someone in on the mental health issue, there is nothing stopping us, regardless of the work that is going to be carried out by a sub-committee. If members feel that it is necessary at some stage to bring in someone from the HSE on this matter, it just needs to be proposed and agreed by the committee. Is that okay?

I certainly think we should have representatives from the HSE before the committee. Committee members may remember examining the quarterly report from the HSE and mental health was not given the treatment it should have been. I think, therefore, we should have a particular delegation from the HSE before the committee to discuss what are the challenges and staffing issues, and where are the deficiencies in the service from the point of view of the HSE.

That is fair enough. We have agreed, as a committee, to establish a sub-committee on the issue which is recognition that this is an issue that needs to be tackled. I think we would all accept that there have been failures in this area in the past and we need to do more. If it is agreed, we can talk about this later because we also need to discuss the terms of reference for the sub-committee. If members feel that we need to do more, formally as a committee, in parallel with the work of the sub-committee, I have no difficulty and we can add that to the work programme. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I agree. There is a problem with mental health services, their funding and its continuity. Every time a crisis occurs, those services are the first to get the chop and I do not know why. I was a spokesperson in the area a long time ago and remember that, during budget preparations, millions were earmarked for the area and, when the time came, the money was gone. There was no sign of it anywhere. Negotiations for forming a Government took place at the time and in the course of those negotiations, the mental health budget was pushed to one side.

Over the past year or two, there have been countless instances of issues with services that were in place for children with special needs and mental health problems, and mental health problems generally. Patients have been discharged with nowhere to go and nobody to go to. Everybody in authority has been passing off responsibility to somebody else. There is a problem there and we need to be serious about it.

We are probably drifting in to some of the things that we are going to be talking about in a couple of minutes. Is there any other business? No.