Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 6 Mar 2019

Vol. 980 No. 5

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Teacher Training Provision

This is the fourth or fifth time I have raised issues related to the incidence of autism with various Ministers in the Chamber. I do not know whether the incidence of autism in Ireland is increasing or simply if there is a better, more detailed diagnosis. This is a significant issue for parents throughout the country. At its heart is how the education of children with autism spectrum disorder, ASD, is progressed in order that they can maximise their potential. There is a complete lack of a clear career path for teachers, many of whom train at their own expense by taking courses to deal with children with autism. There is no recognition of such training as a specific stream in education. Whenever I have raised this issue, the Minister for Education and Skills has passed my questions to the Teaching Council which is locked into a tight model in which it only recognises four streams of teaching: primary, secondary, Montessori and other, and further education. It is a rigid structure. The Minister is washing his hands of the issue. There is no mention of children with autism or particular special needs. There is an intense need. In my constituency there is a relatively high number of schools, especially at primary level but increasingly at second level, in which children are in ASD classes. There is also broad agreement to develop an ASD-specific school in Dublin 15, Dublin 7 and Dublin West because of the numbers of children who are effectively in part-time education and, in some cases, not receiving education at all. Even the Taoiseach has agreed that there is need for special provision.

With regard to ASD classes, if teachers are taken out of the general primary teaching stream and received no specific training, notwithstanding their intense commitment to the children involved, it may not produce the best outcome for the children.

As a society we are all in the process of learning about this area. We need to work out how we facilitate appropriate training for people who are going to take up positions as teachers in ASD classes or in ASD specific schools. It is for the Minister for Education and Skills to provide leadership in respect of the Teaching Council. I can understand that when the Teaching Council was established, this may have been an area which did not receive any particular attention. That happens all the time. Now that we know that this is an issue, we need to address how we are going to provide for recognition for people who have trained in the ASD area and how to provide the most appropriate and best education for children who have autism and ASD issues.

On behalf of the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy McHugh, I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. I recognise the Deputy's advocacy over many years on behalf of those with special needs. Inclusive education is a fundamental principle of our education and training system. This principle is put into practice in the policies of the Department and the Teaching Council. Under section 38 of the Teaching Council Act 2001, all initial teacher education programmes in Ireland that lead to registration must have professional accreditation from the Teaching Council. The mandatory requirements for accreditation are set out in criteria and guidelines for programme providers. These were published in June 2011 and revised in March 2017. Under these criteria, student teachers in all accredited programmes are required to undertake study in inclusive education, including special education. This applies to all primary and post-primary teachers.

The Department published Guidelines for Schools: Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs for primary and post-primary in 2017. These provide guidance to schools on the use, organisation and deployment of additional teaching resources for students with special educational needs, including students with autism. In addition to developing and reviewing their whole-school policies in the education and inclusion of students with special educational needs, schools should also be proactive in meeting the continuing professional development, CPD, needs of their teachers. The National Council for Special Education, NCSE, support service delivers a range of professional development initiatives and support for teachers working with students with special educational needs, including autism. Moreover, all of the Department's support services, such as the professional development service for teachers, are required by the Department to have regard to the individual needs of all learners in designing and delivering CPD for teachers.

In respect of the school setting, the Department's policy is that children with special educational needs, including those with autism, should be included in mainstream placements with additional supports provided unless such a placement would not be in their best interests or in the interests of the children with whom they are to be educated. The greater proportion of children with autism attend mainstream classes, but some require the environment of a special class or special school. This decision is based on a recommendation contained within a professional assessment in consultation with the National Council for Special Education. The National Council for Special Education is responsible, through its network of special education needs organisers, SENOs, for the development, delivery and co-ordination of education services to children with special educational needs, including the establishment of special class and special school placements. Where parents have been unsuccessful in enrolling their child in a school placement, they should update their local organiser to inform the planning process.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply but it encapsulates the difficulties that happen for many parents and children in the current system. I appreciate that people within the Department of Education and Skills and the Ministers are trying to improve the situation but it falls down in all sorts of ways throughout the country. For instance, every year in recent years, as the Minister of State knows from his constituency, there is a panic when a child cannot find a place in a school which will accept the child because it does not have a special class or does not have the resources. The child then has to go to the SENO, as the Minister of State said in his reply, who will provide support for the child. That does not happen, and very often in Dublin 15, quite a few children are left with only a part-time or an inadequate education.

From the point of view of people who want to teach children who are autistic or who are on the autism spectrum, we have to recognise this is a specialised area of teaching and that the current set up of the Teaching Council does not fully recognise this. That is part of the problem. If a principal in a primary school is allocated an ASD special class, does he or she select one of the existing staff to take that? The teacher may be intensely dedicated, may want to do the best, may have voluntarily done courses but may not be particularly qualified in the area. We have to up our game as a country in this regard because when the quality of education available to children with autism or on the autism spectrum improves, the outcomes for children and families are very good. I want to have a dialogue with the Minister of State as to how as a society we go about achieving this.

It is not difficult to agree with much of what the Deputy has said. There are three points to make. Inclusive education is a mandatory element of the initial teacher education programme, and research has been carried out on inclusive education in initial teacher education by the NCSE which recently published a report entitled Initial Teacher Education for Inclusion. Phases 1 and 2 of the report found that there is in general much good practice in schools around their attitude to inclusion while also noting that there is scope for further alignment between theory and practice, in particular as between the student placement and the university experience. The third point is that the Teaching Council is carrying out a review of the impact of the current programmes with a view to amending the criteria the Deputy spoke about and guidelines before the next round of accreditation commences in 2020.

In the meantime, the Department provides a range of in-service professional developing supports to teachers. The Deputy may not be aware of this but they have been in place since March 2017. The NCSE support service has a remit to develop schools' capacity to include students with special educational needs to promote educational provision. The review is of all the criteria we have spoken about. That will be completed before the next round of accreditation.

Without condescending to the Deputy, I know she has been a great advocate for people with special needs all her life, and I would be delighted to keep her updated on the review as the Department is updated every fortnight, I think.

I appreciate-----

No. We are finished.

-----the Minister of State's offer and I accept it.

We are finished.

Can I just say-----

No, we are finished.

No one would ask a teacher to teach a maths class at primary or secondary level unless he or she had some qualification. This is a specialist field where we need as a country to organise proper education so that we have qualified people teaching who are also dedicated to the children.

All teachers have inclusion training.

Meat Processing Plants

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Doyle, for coming to the House. It has been a very difficult year for beef farmers, particularly suckler beef farmers, throughout the country. I was surprised with the reply I received last week to a parliamentary question I had tabled to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine about the operation of beef grading machines in meat plants throughout the country. In the past two years, inspectors from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine have found 21 beef grading machines to be working outside the rules set out for their operation. Manual grading of carcasses was introduced immediately in all of these cases. An interesting aspect of these figures is that even though 21 machines in meat plants were taken out of operation by the Department in the past two years, just four weighing scales were taken out of operation during the same period by the National Standards Authority of Ireland, which regulates weighing instruments in all meat processing facilities throughout Ireland. These figures are adding to the concern of farmers regarding the accuracy of grading machines. This concern is compounded by the complexity of the beef carcass classification scheme itself. With the development of technology, it should now be possible for farmers to be supplied with a digitised image of the carcass of each animal on the actual day of slaughter.

Last week, I tabled a parliamentary question to the Minister, Deputy Creed, to seek to ascertain "in the case of each of the 21 instances ... the number of carcasses that were rechecked by the manual grader back to the last known point of accuracy" prior to the Department identifying the misgrading of those carcasses. According to the reply I received from him, there is "no mechanism to permit an officer to pinpoint exactly when the machine went out of tolerance". Control reports are done on a weekly basis by the supplier of these machines to the meat plants, but they do not report on the miscalculating of grades. That is the standard set out by the Department here. I find it interesting that in the UK, the rules dictate that the operator must check each machine daily and must keep daily control reports on the automated grading. Those reports must specifically include any faults or inaccuracies, as well as the actions taken where necessary to address them. In the UK, these machines are checked daily and inaccuracies are recorded. In Ireland, one week's full kill of animals could go through an inaccurate grading machine where the grading is at least one if not more subclasses out in relation to that grade.

What does this mean in plain English for farmers? In the cases of the 21 machines I have mentioned, the miscalculation of grades was at least two subclasses. I will give an example. If a miscalculation causes an O+4 bullock to be graded as an O-4 bullock, the farmer will lose 18 cent on the grid and 12 cent on the quality assurance payment. If it is an Angus animal, the farmer will lose 10 cent off the Angus bonus. In the case of a bullock of average weight, €139.60 would be taken out of the hands of a hard-pressed beef farmer. I will give a final example. If an O= animal is misgraded as a P+ animal, the 24 cent loss caused by the miscalculation will result in an overall loss of €84 for the farmer.

I thank Deputy Naughten for raising this Topical Issue matter. The Minister, Deputy Creed, is travelling to Turkey to discuss live exports with his counterpart in that country and he sends his apologies for not being here.

There are 32 slaughter plants in Ireland, with mechanical grading being carried out in 23 of them. Some 1.8 million bovines were classified in all plants in 2018, with 1.6 million of them being mechanically graded. Commission implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1184 of 20 April 2017 governs the monitoring of carcass classification, presentation and weighing. It specifies how on-the-spot checks shall be carried out in all slaughterhouses applying compulsory carcass classification. According to the regulation, on-the-spot checks shall be performed at least twice every three months in all slaughterhouses which slaughter 150 or more bovine animals per week. The regulation stipulates that each on-the-spot check shall relate to at least 40 carcasses selected at random. In 2018, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine conducted almost 550 unannounced on-the-spot inspections in the 32 factories on carcass classification, presentation and weights. There were 616 inspections in 2016 and 628 inspections in 2017. This equates to an average of 20 inspections per factory per year, which significantly exceeds the legal minimum requirement of eight inspections per year. The controls applied in Ireland are significantly in excess of those required under EU law. These on-the-spot inspections are carried out by a dedicated team of specialist staff in the Department's beef carcass classification section. The Department has been implementing further monitoring since 1 January last. Since that date, the Department's veterinary public health inspection staff in the factories have been providing a supporting role for the beef carcass classification staff. This should provide further assurance to stakeholders that the appropriate dressing specification is being applied in factories.

Regarding grading checks in particular, the unannounced inspections verify the ongoing accuracy of the automated beef grading. The mechanical classification method must operate within legally defined tolerances at all times. The tolerances are defined in the EU legislation. If the machine is found to be working outside EU-defined tolerances, the factory is instructed to revert to manual grading immediately. The factory must then arrange for the machine to be serviced. A classification check will subsequently be conducted by departmental officers to confirm the machine is within the legal tolerances before it is returned to mechanical classification mode. All manual classifiers are licensed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. When manual grading is instigated, this is advised to farmers through remittance dockets. Regional control staff ensure standardised and harmonised carcass classification procedures apply. There are detailed procedures in place for the conduct of inspections and protocols for dealing with issues as they arise. Standardisation exercises occur twice per year with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, where the same classification machines are in use. This is to ensure a standard approach to inspections throughout the island. In addition, the European Commission visits Ireland and other member states periodically to ensure there is standardisation across the EU. I am satisfied that the controls carried out by departmental staff regarding carcass conformation, carcass trim and weights are fully in line with EU legislation. I am also satisfied that there is a robust inspection monitoring and control system, with the number of inspections conducted well in excess of requirements set down in EU legislation.

I have absolutely no doubt that the standards that are being used here in the inspections comply with EU law. That is not my question. I am seeking to ensure the standards that are put in place are accompanied by a level of inspection that will protect the farmers who are supplying cattle to these plants. That is what I am looking for. Daily inspection reports are carried out in the UK. The faults and inaccuracies are recorded and are available for inspection. In this country, a compliance report is done once a week by the manufacturer of the machine. These miscalculations are not recorded on such reports. I mentioned an example in which a farmer could lose out on €139.60, which is the difference between putting bread and butter on the table and not being able to do so. Beef farmers have their backs to the wall at the moment. We need to look at how we can protect them and not just at how we can comply with EU law.

Twelve months ago, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine supervised a trial of new grading technology. Better cameras and other forms of technology were used to provide more accurate grading. In this week's Farming Independent, Martin Coughlan points out that the current grading machines underscore both R and U grades.

In the two years after the introduction of mechanical grading in 2004, the number of R grades reduced significantly, by a sixth. It is now 14 years since those machines were introduced, which happened three years before the iPhone first came on the market in 2007. The machines are outdated and obsolete. I believe we are undergrading cattle and taking money out of the pockets of hard pressed suckler farmers. These machines need to be replaced immediately.

The Deputy argued in his earlier contribution that it should be possible to have a digitised image of the carcass available to the farmer on the day. I would not disagree. I will be sending a load of cattle to a factory fairly shortly myself and I would be very happy if I had an accurate read-out.

With respect, I would contradict slightly some of what the Deputy has said. In the UK they do daily checks, but are they with the new machines or with the old ones that we have here at present? Information should be able to travel through automatic checks. For example, a company based in Enniskerry in County Wicklow is able to monitor energy use in multi-storey buildings in Dubai. They can switch on and off the heat via monitoring. EirGrid does it and everyone can do it. It is centralised control. A company in Germany is in charge of it. The increase in sophistication that has taken place since 2004 should allow ongoing monitoring.

I urge everybody to come together. We have set up a round-table group for a beef forum but people have decided not to engage with it. We need to get everybody around the table for transparency in order that we understand the systems of grading and pricing. That must include producers, processors and retailers. Everybody should understand. I favour having a sophisticated grading system on which everybody has eyes. Health and safety does not allow an owner of animals to follow them down the line the way it used to be done years ago. There has to be another way of doing it. We should be aiming to get there and that is the purpose of having a forum.

General Practitioner Services

Roscommon is getting a good look in today.

Indeed, on two very important issues. I am sure the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, is glad we are not coming back to him about the Rosalie unit on this occasion. Deputy Naughten and myself will be coming back to him on that as well.

It is fair to say that general practice is under pressure up and down the country. We have seen the protest from the doctors and the concern expressed. It is no different in the constituency of Roscommon-Galway. One general practitioner based in the constituency has been asked to take on additional patients, as many doctors have been, from the primary care reimbursement service, PCRS, panel appointments. Recent protests have highlighted the ongoing pressures being placed on GPs throughout the country. This particular GP in my constituency is unfortunately not unique. His practice is operating at full capacity and there is now a three-day waiting list for his surgery. His existing patients are deeply frustrated by the situation. Despite this, a number of additional patients have been assigned to him by the PCRS. His practice nurse has been on maternity leave since December and he is having serious difficulty in sourcing a full-time nurse and has not been successful to date. As a single-handed GP who also took patients from the emergency reception and orientation centre, EROC, in Ballaghaderreen, he should be excluded from patient appointments in his panel. He has been asked to take on new patients on a regular basis over the past two years due to a number of issues such as Brexit, people relocating to the west and people coming back to the area to work. There was already extraordinary pressure on this GP prior to the arrival of patients from Syria.

As for the EROC, despite the promises from the Government and the Department of Health, no new resources or funding were allocated to the Ballaghaderreen area to support the existing health services, and now we can see the fall-out. If this GP takes additional patients, they will more than likely end up being assigned to another GP after six months. GPs are entitled to ask for patients to be moved on if they cannot handle the situation. This would be very frustrating for the doctor and the patients, particularly in a place like Ballaghaderreen where a doctor and his staff genuinely took on the people from the EROC, gave a fantastic service to those people and continue to do so without any assistance from the Department. He is still not able to do it and he is totally frustrated. I have a copy of a letter from the HSE telling him that another family is coming. I am not going to give the details here but I have them on file if the Minister of State wants to see them. This is happening on a constant basis and it is not fair to him.

The doctor writes that the HSE contacted him last year to take on a family that was moving to the area from the Mosney centre and was being settled in the town of Ballaghaderreen. He says he was unhappy at the time due to the fact that this placed an even greater burden on the surgery but, once more, he accepted the new patients. He states that he thinks this is very unfair as there were already extraordinary pressures on the surgery prior to the arrival of the patients from Syria. He writes that his practice provided a GP service to those vulnerable patients and that it was the proper and Christian thing to do. That is what the GP wrote in a letter to me. It is clear that there was extraordinary goodwill to help less fortunate people. He never closed his door on them. However, when people now look to make an appointment, including patients who have been with him for years, in most cases he cannot take them until the following week. Where there are EROCs and direct provision centres and doctors are being asked to take on these extra patients, I ask that we do something for them because no back-up has been given to them.

I assure the House that the Government is committed to the continued development of GP capacity. The goal is to ensure patients across the country continue to have access to GP services and that general practice is sustainable in all areas into the future. GPs have a crucial role in the provision of primary care services. Particularly in rural areas, local GPs play a vital and ongoing part in the lives of most people in the community. I want to ensure that existing GP services are retained and supported and that general practice remains an attractive career option for newly qualified doctors.

I understand that there are two General Medical Services, GMS, GPs in Ballaghaderreen. In addition to their medical card and private patients, these GPs provide care to refugees in the emergency and orientation centre in Ballaghaderreen. While neither of these GPs has GMS panels exceeding the maximum number of patients permitted under the GMS scheme, the HSE is aware that they are under pressure to provide such services but has not been made aware of any particular difficulties in this regard. Local HSE management in Roscommon is committed to liaising with the two GPs on an ongoing basis in respect of the provision of services to patients in Ballaghaderreen.

The Government is aware of workforce issues generally facing general practice, including the influence of demographic factors, and has implemented a number of measures to improve recruitment and retention in general practice. These include changes to the entry provisions to the GMS scheme to accommodate more flexible or shared GMS GP contracts, and to the retirement provisions for GPs under the GMS scheme, allowing GPs to hold GMS contracts until their 72nd birthday. Enhanced supports for rural GP practices have also been introduced. These steps should help to address the future demand for GPs by enticing GPs who may have ceased practicing for family or other reasons back into the workforce, facilitating GPs to work past the standard retirement age and encouraging more GPs to work in rural areas. There has been a huge expansion in the number of training places on GP training programmes in recent years. In 2009, there were 120 GP training places available and in 2018, 193 places were filled, an increase of approximately 60% over this nine-year period.

It is acknowledged that there are many challenges in general practice. That is why the Government remains committed to engaging with GP representatives on the development of a package of measures and reforms to modernise the current GMS contract. Talks involving the Department of Health, the HSE and the Irish Medical Organisation as the established GP representative body are continuing. Agreement on the delivery of these service improvements and contractual reforms has the potential to facilitate a substantial increase in the resourcing of general practice on a multi-annual basis.

I thank the Minister of State for a fairly comprehensive reply. Obviously, I cannot be happy with it. The reply states: "While neither of these GPs has GMS panels exceeding the maximum number of patients permitted under the GMS scheme, the HSE is aware that they are under pressure to provide such services but has not been made aware of any particular difficulties in this regard."

However, this GP contacted the primary care reimbursement service, PCRS, and said that he was unable to continue to take patients like this. He has told me that he will have to move those patients on after six months. This is an unsatisfactory situation.

These are exceptional circumstances. Ballaghaderreen is a town that accepted less fortunate people with open arms. Everyone played his or her part in that, along with the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton. I thank the Minister of State for his engagement on that. However, when questions were asked at the time, we were told quite clearly that if extra support was required in the area of health or education, it would be forthcoming. I can tell the Minister of State that if it was not for the volunteers and doctors in Ballaghaderreen, those people would not have a great existence. They constantly look after them and provide services to them. They do it because they say it is the Christian thing to do. I ask that the Minister of State bring the message back to the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, that when people from places like Syria are brought into direct provision centres, we must provide the locality with some extra services. We should look at that proposal. A special case should be made for towns like that, and for GPs who are caught in those situations. They cannot cope, and that is the bottom line.

I take the points the Deputy has made on the reception centres and the orientation centre in the town, and the additional strain it has put on existing GP practices. I will relay those concerns to the senior Minister and the HSE on foot of what the Deputy has raised here today. I urge the GP to return to the primary care unit locally. As the Deputy will appreciate I cannot address the detail on a local scale, and can only speak about national policy issues. The HSE primary care unit would be the appropriate place to have further discussions. I will pass the concerns on to the HSE at the national level and relay them to the senior Minister.

Mental Health Services Provision

Families and service users in Clondalkin, Lucan and the surrounding areas have received some very bad news in recent weeks. One such piece of news concerns the potential moving of the HSE's adult community mental health team from Clondalkin to Tallaght due to difficulties with the current premises, and the second is the proposal to merge the young persons' mental health support service, Jigsaw, which would result in the loss of that service to its current base of north Clondalkin. It is proposed that the service move to Tallaght.

The Clondalkin drug and alcohol task force has written to all of the Deputies in the constituency to raise several concerns. In terms of the adult mental health team, it has said:

The removal of front line services, even on a temporary basis, to a location outside of the community will increase the barriers for those already faced with adversity to access services. As it stands, the taskforce says, the community mental health team are already under-resourced and work with the most hard to reach service user group who require ongoing support to address their mental health needs.

On Jigsaw, the task force has said: "The removal of services in an area where there are significant issues in terms of mental health for young people and adults, which is supported by research from the National Suicide Research Foundation and the National Office of Suicide Prevention, would have catastrophic implications for the community." The task force is urging the Minister of State to work with the four local Deputies in the first instance to ensure that neither of these services are lost to the local community and that Jigsaw retains a permanent base in north Clondalkin to provide the services for the surrounding areas. North Clondalkin in particular, because of a range of factors, has a significantly higher level of suicide and mental health issues for younger people than many other parts of the country. Jigsaw is one of the most wonderful services imaginable. I am sure the Minister of State has been in Jigsaw services in other locations. It is accessible to young people in the local area and has built up a reputation of trust and confidentiality. People can just walk in. They do not have to be referred by a GP or other formal services. In fact, even Deputies and members of the community can make referrals. There is a strong view among people working in mental health services and in the local community that the loss of these two crucial adult and young person facilities will not just mean a loss of services but could also result in the loss of lives due to the inability of people to access crucial mental health supports.

In the first instance I am urging the Minister of State to outline what his Department can do to ensure that these services are not lost to Tallaght. I also ask him to meet a cross-party delegation of the Deputies from the constituency to help ensure that, into 2019 and 2020, both services remain in the local community where they are needed and where they belong.

Some of the significant new funding provided by the Government for the key mental health care programme this year will be used to enhance prevention and early intervention services, such as the Jigsaw model of care. The HSE, in the context of its agreed service plan 2019, and arising from a recent evaluation of Jigsaw nationally, is considering in detail decisions around possible new Jigsaw sites over this year and next.

The HSE has informed me that a decision was taken in late 2018 to integrate services in Tallaght and Clondalkin under a single management structure. Importantly, however, there is no intention to reduce the number of front-line staff. The intention is to make the service more stable, sustainable, flexible and accessible to young people. Any inference or misinformation about the service being reduced or taken away is inaccurate and is indeed quite unhelpful in that it may cause uncertainty for young people and their families or those considering reaching out.

The main hub for the integrated service will be a new, larger premises in Tallaght. Jigsaw will still operate from the existing hub in Clondalkin for at least the remainder of this year, after which it will be looking at other premises or co-location options so that it ensures both a presence and accessibility across the full catchment area. Jigsaw has moved to reassure everyone involved by putting out “business as usual” messages on its social media. Jigsaw has also provided certain reassurances to local community agencies and to elected representatives.

The service, currently based on Moorefield Avenue in Clondalkin, is not closing. Jigsaw is currently exploring options for service delivery into south County Dublin around their new premises in Tallaght for this service from 2020 and beyond. It remains fully committed to the young people of Clondalkin and surrounding areas and will continue to deliver mental health services to them and their families. Any decision to change the physical location of the service will be made in line with Jigsaw’s desire to continue to offer the best it can to the people of Clondalkin and surrounding areas. The new premises in Tallaght will bring together the Jigsaw Clondalkin and Jigsaw Tallaght teams, thus creating one larger, more resilient team to ensure stability and sustainability into the long term for the service to the county.

In line with trends across Jigsaw’s network, the last twelve months have seen a 15% surge in demand for its services in Dublin south west. Jigsaw will continue to be responsive to this demand to the best of its ability. What Jigsaw will offer to the community in Clondalkin will actually expand, not contract, with a choice of locations for appointments - either Tallaght or Clondalkin - from now until the end of the year. There will be an e-mental health platform available from April to young parents, adults and professionals working with young people, and a new, integrated schools programme will be rolled out across the area from next September. There will be no reduction in their day-to-day work with young people and the community across Clondalkin, Lucan, Newcastle and Palmerstown.

Anybody who is raising this issue, whether on the ground in the community or in this House, is doing so because he or she wants to ensure that the community continues to enjoy the services it rightly deserves. It is unfortunate to use the word "unhelpful" and suggest that those of us who are raising it are doing so for reasons other than a desire to ensure our community has those services. The people on the front line and the families who are accessing Jigsaw services have asked us to raise this matter. If there is confusion, it lies in the Minister of State's own answer. He has not provided any clarity as to whether there will still be a Jigsaw office and staff based in the Clondalkin, Lucan, Newcastle and Palmerstown area after 2020. If there is not, there will be a reduction in service for people in that area. The Minister of State should not listen to me, but rather the people who use these services.

Susan Doyle tragically lost her 17 year old son, Robert Hoey, in 2011 to suicide. She went on to campaign for services, including Jigsaw, to be brought to north Clondalkin, where she lives. She is trained as and works as a suicide intervention and prevention officer. She is a woman with considerable experience. She said:

If people are not available in the community who are trained up people's lives are going to be lost again by suicide and people are going to suffer again because the help is not there in the area. It is vital that those services are kept in the area.

Tallaght is a considerable distance away, particularly for people who are experiencing significant mental health issues. Staff based in Tallaght will not be available to the same extent as the staff based permanently in the Jigsaw premises in Moorefield in north Clondalkin. Will the Minister of State give a commitment that Jigsaw will continue to have a permanent base in the Clondalkin area, rather than provide an outreach service from Tallaght? If he cannot give that commitment, will he meet a cross-party delegation of Deputies from the constituency to work with us to ensure the services our community so desperately needs will remain in it in order that young people's lives will not be tragically lost because of a decision to move services to Tallaght, which is some distance away?

Let me again be absolutely clear. The Deputy is perfectly entitled to raise any concern he has about any aspect of the mental health service that is within my remit for as long as I am in this position. He does not have to ask if I will meet him; of course, I will always meet Oireachtas Members. I cannot give a guarantee to meet every individual in the country who wants to meet me, but if Oireachtas Members wish to meet me, there will never be any issue.

On the wider issue, I am not accusing anybody of being reckless. We want to be clear in the interests of everybody. When a story gains legs, people begin to fear things when there is no need to fear. The Deputy knows that the budget for mental health services is €1 billion, with an additional €55 million being allocated this year alone for new initiatives. Since becoming Minister of State my focus has been on supporting and enhancing mental health services such as Jigsaw. They are the real winners. We are trying to move people away from the specialist upper-end services. For that reason, in the past 12 months we put 114 assistant psychologists to work in the community, with 20 psychologists and ten advanced nurse practitioners for young people. That is having a sizeable impact in reducing the child and adolescent mental health services waiting list.

Will there be a service in Clondalkin? The HSE has advised me that there absolutely will be. There are management changes and staff may be discommoded. I do not know, but that is not a concern I am picking up at this point. The service will be available in Clondalkin until the end of the year. Next year we will look at possible co-location in premises in Clondalkin, but we absolutely intend to maintain a service in Clondalkin. However, there are staffing changes to build a complement, critical mass, and have staff working together under a single tier of management. That is a better and more efficient use of our managerial resources and will ensure there will be more front-line services available for young people in the Deputy's area.

Recently I was in the very impressive Village Counselling Service where some exceptional work is being done. I am a huge promoter of working from the ground up within the community and lower level intervention, rather than escalating to the higher level. I hope I have provided the assurance sought by the Deputy.