In July 2017, the Joint Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care was established with the aim of achieving cross-party agreement on the implementation of a single, long-term vision for mental health care and the direction of mental health policy in Ireland.
The main aim of the Joint Committee was to examine current delivery of mental health services with a focus on funding, recruitment challenges and increased access to services. The Joint Committee produced two interim reports dated December 2017 and April 2018 and a final report was launched in October 2018.
As part of its Terms of Reference, the Committee recognised that the Department of Health was simultaneously conducting a review of the national mental health policy, ‘A Vision for Change’.
Upon completion of its final report, the work of the Oireachtas Committee came to an end. In this report, the Committee requested that it be established on a permanent footing. The Committee’s Terms of Reference, however, stated that “the Joint Committee shall make its final report to both Houses of the Oireachtas by 31 October 2018, and shall thereupon stand dissolved”. Consequently, there are no plans to establish the Committee on a permanent basis at present.
One of the main objectives of the Committee was to ‘assist with the completion of the implementation of ‘A Vision for Change’ in order to provide a more integrated mental health service of the highest quality’. As a result, the Committee’s work is firmly affiliated with the Vision for Change refresh policy which is now nearing completion.
It is anticipated that the final report of the Vision for Change refresh will be completed in the coming weeks. This report will be informed by the work of the Joint Oireachtas Committee. For example, the key concerns presented to the Committee by various stakeholders during the Committee’s consultation process will be taken on board.
In line with the recommendations of the Committee, the refreshed Vision for Change will support better access, personalised choice and greater service user involvement. It will be implemented by the Department of Health and the HSE. Similarly to other health areas, those charged with its implementation will be fully accountable to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and to the Dáil itself.
In relation to the review of the Mental Health Act 2001, it is intended to finalise the draft heads of the bill in the coming weeks. This initial draft will then be passed on to the Mental Health Commission for its views. In line with normal procedures, the proposed legislation will be scrutinized by both Houses of the Oireachtas.