Sinn Féin TD Mark Ward questioned the funding to Pieta House
The Dáil, Leinster House.
Sinn Féin TD Mark Ward asked the Minister for Health Simon to explain how the funding of €346,000 per quarter to suicide charity Pieta House – to cover 300 hours of therapy per quarter for high-risk clients – is being spent.
Mark Ward: “I will ask a brief question and the Minister’s response will allow me to ask any further questions I may need to. Last week we had a brief discussion about Pieta House and the additional services that will be provided during and post Covid-19. Will the Minister clarify whether the 300 hours that he stated will be provided for therapy for high-risk clients are per month or per quarter?”
Simon Harris: “According to my note, it is 300 hours per quarter. The funding is being provided to fund an additional 300 hours for high-risk clients and the quarterly review will ensure that any client who commences a programme of support can have reasonable assurance of its completion. The cashflow supports are also contingent on a continuation between the HSE and Pieta House. I will confirm that in writing to the Deputy but that is my understanding.”
Ward: “Last week the Minister stated there was additional funding of more than €343,000 to provide 300 hours of therapy per quarter for high-risk clients. I also have a written response from the Minister that reiterates that.
This works out at €1,146 per hour for therapy sessions. The average cost of a psychotherapy session is in the region of €70 to €120 per hour. If, for example, 300 sessions were charged at the higher end of the average – €120 per hour – that would cost the State €36,000. The State is paying Pieta House more than €343,000 to provide the same service. That is a difference of €307,000 per quarter.
I have also received information from some self-employed therapists who have contacted me and other members of my party and who counsel clients for Pieta House. They charge them only €24 per hour, yet the State is funding Pieta House to the tune of €1,146 per hour.
The Government, as the Minister said, has already invested heavily in Pieta House, to the tune of €2.03 million per year, and Pieta House has also availed of the wage subsidy scheme. Despite this, several staff were let go and others have been offered redundancy.
Will the Minister inform the House exactly where this funding is being directed? Is any of the additional funding being used to pay for the redundancies?
Does the Minister think we are getting value for money at €1,146 per therapy session when it would cost the State €120 per hour, or €24 per hour if a self-employed therapist at Pieta House was hired? The State should provide such services and not rely on a charity to do so. Pieta House provides an essential service but it is essential only due to the lack of investment in mental health by this and previous Governments.
Harris: “I thank the Deputy and note his sincere and strong interest in the issue of mental health. I could outline, although I do not have the time now, what we are doing to beef up the public mental health services but I agree with the Deputy that Pieta House does a really good job. It is very well regarded by people throughout our country, as was seen in recent weeks in terms of how people responded to the fundraising call from Pieta House.
My understanding is that the HSE and Pieta House have formally agreed to that additional funding, as the Deputy rightly noted, of €114,608 per month, or €343,824 per quarter, and that will be provided once the current Government staffing cost schemes, which Pieta House has availed of, have ceased. It is to help keep staff.
The HSE has also committed to providing cashflow support on a monthly basis, with the position to be reviewed after each quarter. The funding is being provided to fund an additional 300 hours of high-risk clients and a quarterly review will ensure anybody who commences a programme can complete it.
As I said when we spoke last week, the cashflow support is contingent on the continuation of that engagement between the HSE and Pieta House on a more sustainable funding model for the organisation.
Work has been ongoing between the HSE and Pieta for some time on how to ensure that the funding will be sustainable into the future. That ongoing engagement is required in return for the cashflow support.”
Previously: I Pieta The Fool
Transcript via Oireachtas.ie