I share the Deputy's concern regarding the issue of youth mental health; and indeed it is a subject that needs to be tackled through a whole of society response - one that includes the statutory, voluntary and community sectors.
While this is an issue that is led by the Department of Health, I recognise that other departments and agencies are critical in supporting the Department of Health as part of a concerted response to address the area of youth mental health. As such, and following collaboration with Minister Daly, who has responsibility for this brief, both departments established a Working Group in 2018 to scope connectivity in the area of youth mental health.
The group is made up of senior officials from both Departments with representatives from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency and the Health Service Executive.
The key objective of the working group is to examine psychological and mental health services for children and young people with the aim of agreeing a clearer continuum of provision and strengthening alignment between providers.
In order to secure the best possible output it is essential to establish complete and up-to-date information on current provision. My officials have been working with Tusla to establish greater clarity around existing service availability and provision, with a view to ensuring that all respective inputs from the agencies provide a comprehensive overview of provision in this area. Under the Child and Family Agency Act, 2013 Tusla has responsibility for services relating to the psychological welfare of children and families but not for more acute services focusing on complex developmental issues and disabilities and more severe mental health problems. Community-based psychological services are delivered by the HSE with financial support from Tusla. Tusla also deliver specific psychological services through the Assessment Consultation Therapy Service (ACTS). ACTS provides multidisciplinary consultation, assessment and focused interventions to young people with complex needs.
Tusla and the HSE have in place both a Memorandum of Understanding and a Joint Protocol for inter-agency collaboration among the two organisations. Discussions are ongoing between the two organisations to ensure collaboration is effective and sustained.
A key initiative that will inform the further advancement of the work of the group is the Youth Mental Health Pathfinder Project, being led by the Department of Health. The operationalisation and resourcing of this Pathfinder Project is, I understand, currently under consideration by the Department of Expenditure and Reform. As this project represents the key development to ensure and enhance a robust response to support youth mental health, it is important that the work of the Working Group and indeed our respective departments align with this initiative. It is anticipated that the work advanced to date by the Working Group will directly inform the work of the Pathfinder Project and its programme of work. Centralising the work in this way will provide a clear overview of existing provision and proposed plans from across the relevant departments and agencies so as to identify gaps in provision, areas of alignment and areas for further development.
My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Health and with colleagues in our respective agencies, will continue to support efforts in addressing this crucial issue in a strategic and collaborative response, with the key aim of ensuring aligned and accessible youth mental health policy and service provision.