Pandemic impacts prison psychology services as 57 on waiting list at Cork prison

Pandemic impacts prison psychology services as 57 on waiting list at Cork prison

In providing the figures in answer to a parliamentary question, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said that the engagement with prisoners with services including psychology and addiction professionals has been impacted by the pandemic. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

THERE are currently close to 60 people awaiting psychology services at Cork prison, according to the latest figures available.

On March 9, there were 57 people on the waiting list at the prison — just over a 10th of the 260 inmates in the prison on that day.

In providing the figures in answer to a parliamentary question, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said that the engagement with prisoners with services including psychology and addiction professionals has been impacted by the pandemic.

She said: “Engagement by services with prisoners has been impacted due to the implementation of essential infection control and operational regimes to keep prisoners and staff safe. This has required the development of ways of working to support prisoners.

“Both services have adapted working arrangements to respond innovatively to supporting prisoners by introducing a blended model of working which facilitates prisoner engagement with practitioners employing a combination of mediums including telephony, video link, and one to one contact, where deemed clinically necessary. 

"However, notwithstanding this, service delivery is constrained and has resulted in a reduction of sessions delivered by Psychology and Addiction Services.”

She said that in respect of the psychology service, individual sessions increased in 2020 compared to 2019 by over 13%, but group sessions decreased by 60%.

She added: “The Sex-Offender Treatment programme has also been significantly delayed. Merchants Quay Ireland have witnessed a 24% decrease in client interventions in 2020 compared to 2019.

“The provision of the psychology service places an emphasis on mental health and personality disorder presentations, risk presentations (self and others), and trauma-informed approaches.

“Psychological interventions include both individual and group based approaches and are provided through a stepped model of care.”

She outlined: “The Prison Service Psychology Service operates an open referral policy, meaning the service will accept referrals from all sources.”

“The vast majority of referrals into the Psychology Service are in relation to any, or a combination of the following: Mental health difficulties including, but not exclusive to, mood and anxiety disorders, disorders of personality and behaviour, (complex) post traumatic stress disorder, self-harm and suicidal behaviours, eating disorders, psychosis and schizophrenia; and risk-related presentations.”

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