Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, has described delays for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) as unacceptable and said that waiting lists were putting children and young people at grave risk.

The Sinn Féin TD, a member of the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Mental Healthcare, was responding to a recent Barnardo’s report on waiting lists for young people in the public health services. The report found that there has been a 15% increase in CAMHS waiting lists since last September with almost 14% waiting for in excess of 12 months for an initial appointment.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“We know that CAMHS services are in crisis. On the Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care we have heard graphic stories of parents and families struggling to find appropriate care for their young loved ones. We have heard from staff in the services of how they are overworked, understaffed, and incapable of meeting the demand on the services.

“2,691 children and young people are on waiting lists for CAMHS, not for treatment but for the very first step in an initial assessment.

“Approximately 376 of those young people have been waiting 12 months or more just to be assessed.  Many of these are young lives in turmoil and in desperate need of help and support.

“An immediate emergency response is needed, particularly in areas where the problem is at its worst. The HSE have said they are running a targeted recruitment drive but when Consultants are resigning in numbers due to the terrible conditions experienced then we need more than normal measures to be put in place to fill positions.

“The Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care have outlined a number of practical measures to improve recruitment and the retention of CAMHs staff

“We desperately need to open up vacancies to professionals from other jurisdictions to meet the shortfall in staff that service CAMHS.

“The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, could also begin to address pay and working conditions issues for existing staff, as well as cost of living around issues like housing and transport which for many workers are gone beyond a level which is affordable. By filling vacancies quickly and improving working conditions we can begin to improve the service and attract more staff, keep the excellent staff we already have, and start to address the long waiting lists that are putting children and young people at grave risk.”