Youth counselling service on brink of closure

The Youth Work Ireland Galway offices on Prospect Hill.

A local free counselling service run by Youth Work Ireland Galway, is on the brink of closure due to a lack of stable funding.

Young people aged 12-21 years could avail of a counselling service in their local area for the past five years without worrying about finding money to pay for appointments. However, the Youth Counselling Service are experiencing long waiting lists and are unable to cater for young people’s needs with their current funding.

Local Councillor Niall McNelis expressed his bemusement over the lack of funding for the service, describing it as a “no brainer” for the HSE.

“I had Alan Kelly, who is now the Labour Party spokesperson for Health, in town last week and this was one particular group we met with.

“It’s very minimal, the amount of money they’re looking for. As a father of kids myself, I have to say that this is something that I would hate to see gone,” he said.

Young people are planning on hosting a public meeting in the first week of July to raise awareness of the need for the service to be funded and they will be inviting all local politicians to the meeting to show their support for youth mental health in Galway city and county.

What is unique about the Galway-based Youth Counselling Service is that young people and their families can ask for the service themselves without a clinical (medical) assessment.  All the counsellors hold full accreditation with a recognised professional body and are experienced in working with adolescents.

In 2016, over 190 young people accessed the counselling in Galway, Ballinasloe, Tuam and Loughrea with 154 of them in the 12-15 year age range.

The Youth Counselling Service have also had meetings with TDs Anne Rabbitte and Sean Canney in relation to the counselling service, as well as correspondence from other TDs and Councillors

The Youth Counselling Service have been receiving €35,000 in funding per annum but Counselling Coordinator Deirdre Bermingham explained that this was not sufficient given the demand for the service in Galway City, in particular.

“€42,000 would be enough to cover Galway, Tuam, Loughrea, and Ballinasloe,” she said.

Ms Bermingham also spoke about the need to offer the service in other parts of the county, ensuring that the service is available to all young people.

“If the service was extended to Carna, Clifden and Gort, it would cost €62,000. We have been asked by agencies in these areas to extend the service,” she added.

Currently, Youth Work Ireland Galway’s Youth Counselling Service run a 15-hour-a-week service during the academic year. The service is delivered within existing youth spaces and no venue costs are charged. It costs approximately €250 per person to receive six free counselling sessions.

Cllr McNelis outlined the steps he and Deputy Kelly will take to try and ensure that the funding required to keep this service open is provided.

“We will make sure that the new Minister for Mental Health (Jim Daly, TD) and the Minister for Health (Simon Harris, TD) will be made known of this,” he said.

“We want the money secured. There should be money given every year for this service. We will be using every channel that we have to find that this decision is turned around,” he added.

The figures speak for themselves in proving the importance of this service. In 2016, 120 females between the ages of 12 and 21 availed of the service, as did 71 males in the same age bracket.

The Counsellors help young people through any difficulties they might be experiencing including anxiety, bullying, exam stress, substance issues, family conflict and more.

Ms Bermingham concluded by expressing the Youth Counselling Services desire to remain open and provide help and support to those in need.

“We would like funding to keep the whole service open. It’s a service that is needed for young people in the city and county.”