I know that publication of the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, could be distressing for those most centrally connected to it. It was with that in mind that I engaged with my colleague, the Minister for Health, and directly with the HSE counselling services, to ensure that appropriate capacity and expertise would be available to cope with the expected demand for their service.
The details of the National Counselling Service, a specialist service with 20 years of experience in providing counselling and psychotherapy to a wide range of clients, including those who have experienced psychological difficulties due to time spent in institutions, has been widely circulated in all public communications about the report. These details are also available on my Department's website.
I am advised that counselling is available face to face, by telephone or online through secure video. Access to the National Counselling Service (NCS) for former residents may be made by direct self-referral or by written referrals from health care professionals, such as GPs.
I have also confirmed that the service is available for former residents of Mother and Baby Homes who are deaf or hard of hearing. The National Counselling Service has put in place an email facility to enable those who are deaf or hard of hearing to directly contact local NCS services. An appointment can be arranged to meet with a counsellor together with a sign language interpreter.
A face to face appointment may not be possible at present due to COVID-19 restrictions but a video session can be arranged.
Additional funding resources have been made available to the Health Service Executive to put in place enhanced counselling services for former residents of these institutions. I am continuing to liaise with my colleague, the Minister for Health, who is responsible for these services, to ensure that available capacity is used to the best effect in delivering strong, responsive and timely services for survivors.