I am deeply conscious that giving testimony to a commission and revisiting difficult personal experiences will be distressing for many former residents. I know that some people may need to access various supports around this time. I also acknowledge that the Deputy has raised this issue recently and thank her for highlighting this important matter.
I have previously advised that any person affected by experiences connected to mother and baby homes may wish to contact the Health Service Executive, HSE, national counselling service which provides free professional, confidential counselling and psychotherapy services in all regions of the country. I have ensured relevant HSE contact details are available on the website of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
With regard to the commission of investigation, it is important to recognise that the statutory commission is independent in the conduct of its investigations. I am aware that it does ask former residents attending as witnesses if they have access to supports and whether they would like information on available services. I understand that, if they so wish, this information is provided. The individual arrangements with witnesses are, of course, a matter for the commission and I have no role in that regard.
If the Deputy wishes to provide me with details of any specific case, I will be happy to raise them with the Minister for Health. Officials of my Department have been engaging with counterparts in the Department of Health on the issue of health and well-being supports. This is in the context of the establishment of the collaborative forum which I am in the process of setting up.
As the Deputy may be aware, I have embraced the concept of "nothing about us without us" which has emerged from my engagements to date with former residents. Former residents, rightly, want and deserve an input into the decisions which affect them and their families.
Health and well-being supports are one of the priority areas to be considered in the collaborative forum process. Participants in the forum will identify and prioritise actions and recommendations on issues of concern to them and their families. I have asked them to examine in particular the matter of health and well-being supports as a priority and come back to me with recommendations.