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The Sixth Annual Report of the Independent Monitoring Group on A Vision for Change (AVFC), the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, has been published which shows implementation of A Vision for Change has been slow and inconsistent.

The report highlights the need for a National Mental Health Service Directorate with Authority and control of resources. They also suggest the need for a comprehensive, time-lined and costed Implementation Plan to help establish a consistent framework for the development of all mental health specialties.

The report also emphasises the importance of recovery and calls for the prioritisation of the development of recovery-orientated practice in our mental health services. It points out that the absence of the ethos of recovery and poor development of recovery competencies in service delivery results in a reactive as opposed to proactive approach to the needs of individuals and their families. Full implementation of A Vision for Change will require, an operational framework for the development of recovery competencies for all staff at all levels. While a recovery orientated service appear to be developing at a local level, this needs to be reinforced at a national level.

Specialist mental health services need to be fully developed and implemented as a matter of urgency, the report states. Government Departments must all play their part in the implementation of the AVFC. More broadly, a cultural shift towards a more person centered, partnership approach is required to all these actions to be achieved.

Four key areas which must be advanced to facilitate the implementation of A Vision for Change include: an ability to identify and respond to individual needs of the person and their family; develop a relationship with the service user through partnership; provide a timely, appropriate, recovery based level of service intervention; and offer each and every service user and their family the hope of recovery.

According to the report, community mental health teams are poorly populated with approximately 1,500 vacant positions, the report found. Furthermore, the HSE recruitment embargo and Public Service Moratorium are reducing the availability of professional mental health service staff and the overall volume of financial resources.

The group found evidence of initiatives progressing at local and regional level, mainly bottom-up projects led by local leadership. Progress is also being made in relation to capital projects.

The Minister for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People, Kathleen Lynch TD welcomed the findings of the report and added: “I am confident that the additional €35m provided this year for mental health will significantly improve our community mental health services in line with the recommendations of A Vision for Change and will result in significant benefits to service users, their families, carers and the community”.