I am pleased to say that the Working Group referred to by the Deputy held its inaugural meeting on 19th January 2018. The group is co-chaired by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of 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 clear continuum of provision and strengthening alignment between providers. The services must be centered on the needs of children and young people. The working group have agreed the Terms of Reference and are focusing on assessing work and policies in place with a view to identifying key actions to be progressed and improvements to be made.
I want to ensure that we have an integrated and comprehensive model of service for children and young people. At present, Tusla has responsibility for services relating to the psychological welfare of children and their families but the HSE deals with the more acute services. These include children and young people with complex developmental issues and those with more severe mental health problems.
The division of responsibility between Tusla and the HSE for different types of psychological and mental health services brings challenges, which both agencies have been trying to address. Tusla funds the HSE for the provision of some community based psychological services but the availability of services between areas is quite variable.
Both Tusla and the HSE have been developing proposals to improve the provision and availability of services but we would all accept that there is a good deal more work to do to achieve a well coordinated integrated service that meets the needs of children and young people.
I have met with the Ministers for Health and relevant Ministers of State with a view to maximising collaboration between Tusla and the HSE, including in the area of mental health.
I am pleased that the working group has now commenced its work to address these and related matters. Our aim is that the group would finalise an agreed approach by the middle of this year and commence implementation from Quarter 3 onwards.