Mental health budget cuts 'would be devastating'
Cuts to Northern Ireland's mental health budget would have devastating consequences, a counselling chief warned today.
Only a quarter of those with mental health problems can receive treatment already so further reductions would affect the most vulnerable, the chief executive of New Life Counselling said.
Karen Collins Neill said its services included suicide prevention, tackling drug and alcohol dependency and depression support.
"Any cuts in mental health services could well lead to devastating consequences for individuals, families and communities," she said.
The Department of Health lost a proportion of its money at the start of this financial year, but its budget was protected from the most recent spending cuts announced by the UK Chancellor.
After October when George Osborne outlines his plans for the next spending period, which are expected to include tough savings measures, draft budgets will be available.
Ms Collins Neill added: "New Life Counselling believes that everyone has the right to access help and support when they need it.
"We understand that there are serious concerns regarding the state of public finances in Northern Ireland and that the Minister for Health (Michael McGimpsey) is battling to save what funding he has.
"However, we believe that the Department of Health has the power to make a major impact, not only on the lives of the one in four people in Northern Ireland suffering from a mental health condition but also on our society, socially and economically."