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Concern over future provision of mental health and learning disability services

31 January, 2005

Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O?Dowd has expressed serious concern over the provision of mental health and learning disability services.

Cllr John O'Dowd MLA said:

"Towards the end of last year, when NIO Ministers were preparing their Draft Budget, Sinn Féin warned that the British proposals in relation to health would lead to a deterioration in health service provision across the Six Counties. Indeed, in the party's formal submission to the British, Sinn Féin argued that unless there was a substantial increase in health service funding across all programmes of care, then services such as those provided for mental health and learning disabilities would be seriously curtailed.

"The announcement by the Chief Executive of the Northern Health Board, Stuart McDonnell, that strategies for developing services in mental health and learning disability provision within that board area will now be delayed due to a lack of funding is, I believe, a clear indication that those within the most vulnerable sections of the community are going to suffer most a result of Ian Pearson's proposals.

"The reality is that 29% of the North's households are defined as poor with a further 12.1% vulnerable to poverty owing to low income. Half of all of this household include at least one family member with a long-tern illness or disability. These are the people who will suffer most as a result of any cutbacks in mental health or learning disability provision.

"The NIO budget for health and its negative impact on mental health and learning disability provision will have a profound effect on the quality of life for this section of the community. There is a growing appreciation within the wider community of the need to facilitate and provide increased access to mainstream health, social services and education for people with a mental health or learning disability. However, it is clear that such an appreciation does not extend to those British ministers in charge of the Six Counties.

"I, and other party colleagues, will be due to meet with NIO health minister, Angela Smith MP, next week in relation to the impact of the budget and we will be very forcibly making the case for the urgent release of additional funding into the health service." ENDS

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