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Government must legislate to stop children being admitted to adult psychiatric facilities - Mark Ward TD

26 January, 2022 - by Mark Ward TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health Mark Ward TD has called on government to legislate to stop children being admitted to adult psychiatric facilities.

The government has refused to use the Mental Health Amendment Bill to close a loophole in legislation that permits children being admitted to adult psychiatric facilities.

Teachta Ward said:

“During the committee meeting on mental health, we undertook pre-legislative scrutiny of the Mental Health Amendment Bill 2021.

“This is an opportunity to change for the better how people with mental health issues are treated.

“The government has left a loophole open that allows children to be admitted to adult psychiatric facilities. 

“There is provision in the bill that children would go to appropriate facilities ‘insofar as practicable’.

“Plain and simple, this loophole must be closed. No child should be admitted to an adult mental health facility.

“The Bill permits the admission of children to adult inpatient facilities. This is a symptom of a systemic failure on the part of the state.

“Failure to close this loophole is an admission by government that they have failed to properly resource children’s mental health services.

“We need to get rid of this draconian practice, which sees some of our most vulnerable children with acute mental health needs admitted to adult psychiatric hospitals. 

“It is a very frightening experience for any child to be admitted to a hospital for mental health reasons, but this is exasperated for those children who are placed into adult units.

“There were 27 children admitted to adult facilities last year and while I acknowledge it is down from last the previous year, it is still 27 children too many.

“At the Mental Health Committee, we heard from the children’s Ombudsman that children with mental health difficulties are also being admitted to inappropriate paediatric wards.

“He informed us about a case in which a child was in a paediatric unit for three or four months, with no therapy, no education and no interaction with anybody except an occasional visit from somebody who wanted to adjust the medication.

“This is unacceptable.

“I agree with the Ombudsman when he said that the government has become lazy when it comes to this issue, and has let the idea that we do not have the resources in place rule the fact that the best interests of the child are being overrun.

“We need to legislate for a zero option when it comes to admitting children into adult facilities.”

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