‘Low or no waiting list’ at village counselling service
By Mary Dennehy
A PROPERLY resourced community-based counselling service is key to addressing the growing waiting lists for mental health services, according to an affordable and accessible Tallaght service which sees 2,000 clients annually.
Operating on a ‘low or no waiting list’ system, the Village Counselling Service (VCS) in Killinarden was this week visited by the Minister of State, with special responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly TD.
Chief executive of the Village Counselling Service (VCS), Dr Marcella Finnerty; Minister of State with special responsibilty for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly TD and Chair of VCS.
The largest community-based counselling service in the country, VCS provides affordable and accessible primary care mental health intervention and prevention services.
Money is never a “barrier” to people accessing mental health care at VCS, with clients paying what they can afford.
When first established in 2004, VCS had six therapists who saw 24 clients out of two porta cabins in Tallaght Village.
However, 15 years later, a team of 154 volunteer counsellors see around 2,000 clients per year – with more than 500 hours counselling taking place each week.
According to Dr Marcella Finnerty, the chief executive of VCS: “Over the past 15 years, our centre has grown at a rate we could not have imagined at its inception, and continues to provide a high-quality, accessible, professional, affordable, community-based counselling service.
“Mental health issues don’t discriminate; the average age of our clients is 32 years; our clientele are drawn from all age groups – with a current age range from six years to over 80.
“We address a broad spectrum of problems for those who need help at any stage in their lives.”
People seek help from VCS for a range of reasons including depression, relationship problems, chemical dependency, loss and bereavement, working with people affected by suicide, stress, self-esteem issues, sexual, physical and emotional abuse and family concerns.
Around 20 per cent of the service’s clients are children and adolescents, which resulted in VCS in 2008 opening the Sarah-Jane Child and Adolescent Service.
More than 2,000 children and teenagers have availed of this service to date.
“Our work has expanded exponentially in recent years and we see growing demand and growing waiting lists”, Dr Finnerty said.
“To continue to meaningfully respond to this demand, we need to remain contemporary and use innovative approaches, such as the delivery of online therapy and the use of other new and emerging technologies.
“Appropriate and realistic funding, which acknowledges the impact which the VCS has had on the social fabric and mental health and wellbeing of Irish society, will allow us to stay relevant and continue to expand and improve our service offering as we look ahead to the next fifteen years.”
The Village Counselling Service receives funding from the HSE, Tusla and the National Office for Suicide Prevention, along with contributions from clients.
According to VCS, clients pay what they can afford, with the average contribution being around €13 per session – with some clients paying less or nothing at all, depending on their situation.
Chair of the VCS, Anna Lee said: “One of the core values of the VCS is that money must not be a barrier to people accessing high-quality mental health care.
“However, guaranteeing a quality service, in a welcoming environment that provides warmth and privacy for our clients and for those who deliver our services comes at a cost.
“Making the VCS’s vision for quality and accessibility real is an enormous challenge, which can only be met over the coming years if adequate resourcing is made available.”
During this week’s ministerial visit, calls were made for Government investment in the Tallaght service, and also for funding to be provided to replicate services nationwide.
Speaking during his visit, Minister Daly commended the “commitment and dedication” of the independent voluntary organisation.
“[VCS] input is invaluable in not only providing support for those most vulnerable in our society, but also in heightening awareness of the importance of research and education in this area”, Minister Daly said.
The VCS has appointments on Monday to Friday from 8am to 10pm and Saturdays from 8am to 8pm.
For further information or to book an appointment visit www.villagecounselling.ie.