I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this particularly sensitive, urgent and pressing issue which has become more obvious as time goes by. I do not attribute blame to any particular individual, including the Minister or anybody else. Everything that could be done has been done and I acknowledge that there were difficulties during the past year due to Covid. However, needs must, and the emerging is situation very serious, first, from the point of view of parents of a child with severe sensory and emotional difficulties who cannot find a safe location where their child can receive in-house care and therapy. Many parents continually approach us who are at the end of their tether trying to deal with this on their own.
The next group is adolescents who have difficulties of a serious nature and it is again impossible to find a place for them. They may have eating disorders and be affected in various ways, and suffer from sporadic attacks over which they have no control. These unfortunate adolescents do not understand what is happening. This is happening around them and it is the life they live. It is their little world and, as it unfolds in front of them, it is not great. The problem is the services are not available to address the issues on time.
I refer to the next group of the older adolescents and young adults. They have mental health issues, but they do not have any experience of life. They do not know whether this is normal. They are where they are and they know it is not a happy place to be. Their parents stay with and try to help them in every way. Sadly, many of them end up in prison and are detained while awaiting a court hearing. I dealt with such a case in recent weeks. This is an appalling situation.
I reiterate that this is not the fault of the Minister of State. This goes back 20 years during which time there has been growing demand and a failure to address the issue on an ongoing basis because of other competing demands, which we all accept that. I ask the Minister of State to make a special effort to identify this cohort of people who are desperate, as are their parents and siblings, and unable to cope. The stress on the families and the individuals is significant and increasing. We have dealt with many cases where, due to the stress, the individuals harm themselves seriously or, worse, find an ultimate way out that does not solve any problem, but creates more.
We need to make a salutary move on this problem now. This cannot wait. We need to address the issues. I have only given a small number of examples but every Member will have multiple examples of the same experiences. Let us do whatever must be done to put in place the measures required to accommodate the needs of such patients and to recognise their difficulties for what they are, and to address the issues in a meaningful way. Let us do this now and give them hope for the future. Let us give them an indication that society cares for them and is prepared to help them in a meaningful way.