- Dublin Simon Community Annual Review 2019 reveals that the charity’s out-of-hours Suicide Prevention Service averaged two critical interventions per day for suicidality
- Charity sees growth in demand for health supports as analysis shows that 53% of emergency accommodation residents require mental health support – the vast majority of whom (90%) have additional physical health or addiction issues
- Health funding for homeless services has plummeted by 54% per person since 2014
Dublin, 10 September 2020: Dublin Simon Community CEO, Sam McGuinness, revealed details of charity’s Annual Review for 2019 and warned of the need to avoid a health crisis amongst the homeless population as a consequence of health underfunding and increasing homelessness numbers due to accommodation constraints.
He said: “Demand for treatment services to meet the critical health needs of our homeless population has grown throughout 2019 with further growth experienced this year due to the impact of Covid 19. Within our own treatment services we are presently faced with an ongoing funding deficit of at least one million euros per year.
“Although we are seeing positive results in resettling 2,435 people and preventing a further 1,016 people from entering homelessness, the outlook within our emergency accommodation is daunting. 1,231 people accessed our emergency services in 2019 and our analysis of this population showed that 36% of people have been homeless for more than five years, and two-thirds of them are aged between 25 and 44. This group’s health needs are particularly high: 53% have a requirement for mental health support, 23% have both mental health and addiction issues, 19% have mental health, addiction and physical health issues and a further 19% have addiction and physical health issues.”
Dublin Simon Community Healthcare Delivery 2019
Dublin Simon Community provides vital addiction and healthcare services that are specific to the needs of the homeless population. Services like residential detox, addiction recovery and blood borne virus services are in high demand and Sure Steps Counselling is also experiencing significant demand. 2019 was also the first full year of operation of a 12-bed residential intermediate care facility called Step Up Step Down in partnership with Safetynet Primary Care and the HSE. This unit provides short-term semi-acute healthcare interventions, treatment and observations.
- In 2019, Dublin Simon Community saw an 18% increase on demand for homeless healthcare services and provided access to treatment to 1,281 people.
- There was also an increase in waiting times for access to related services over the previous year.
|Service||% Increase in waiting time|
|Blood Borne Virus Unit||24%|
- Step Up Step Down treated 172 patients in 2019 with an average stay of 17 days.
- Dublin Simon Community operates the first homeless-specific low threshold /bespoke counselling service in Ireland, Sure Steps Counselling.
- Sure Steps Counselling includes a specific out-of-hours Suicide Prevention service, in partnership with the National Office of Suicide Prevention, of which only the out-of-hours service receives funding.
- 2,850 hours of counselling were provided in 2019 an increase of 17% on the previous year.
- Almost 20% of these hours were crisis interventions for suicidality – an average of two per day.
- 80% of all referrals to the service came from those on the street or in emergency accommodation.
- Demand for non-crisis services saw a waiting time increase for Sure Steps Counselling daytime services increase by 240% over the past two years
Demand for Healthcare Funding
A look at health funding statistics for homeless specific healthcare reveals that funding is not increasing in step with the growth in homelessness. CEO Sam McGuinness said: “Since 2014, health spending in homeless services stagnated while homeless numbers accelerated. It is not even close to meeting the needs of the sector. What is now needed is the dedicated funding line and resources to deliver physical and mental health supports, as per the promise in the Programme for Government 2020.”
He added: “Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien, has engaged the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, and Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan, to commit to securing additional resources for this purpose. Making good on this commitment is essential for the critical health needs of struggling homeless people. ”
Impact of Covid-19
Majella Darcy, Head of Treatment Services in Dublin Simon Community outlined the increased challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic: “The pandemic required us to take a whole new approach in the way we deliver services and support our clients and residents. Services such as counselling moved online and virtual and we implemented an Emotional Support Freephone Service for the Homelessness sector. In the first seven weeks of operation this service delivered 300 hours of phone counselling.
“In 2019, the most prevalent primary reason for admission to our in-patient Step Up Step Down Unit was a respiratory condition, this highlights the extreme vulnerability of our clients during the pandemic.
“Our clinical nursing staff were trained in Covid-19 testing and supported the HSE and Safetynet Primary Care in conducting testing amongst the homeless population. Our Step Up Step Down service supported hospitals by providing 20 acute medical beds to free up space for Covid-19 patients in public hospitals. We expect these services to be under continual pressure while the pandemic is still active.”
CEO Sam McGuinness concluded: “The challenges we are facing daily in keeping the homeless population safe are enormous and I cannot emphasise strongly enough that a firm commitment to funding is required to respond to this specific public health need for homeless people.”
Dublin Simon Community’s Annual Review was launched today by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu, who said: “I am delighted to join Dublin Simon Community in launching their Annual Review for 2019. For fifty years, Dublin Simon has been part of the fabric of Dublin society. In a year like no other, the vital role they play in serving and safeguarding some of our city’s most vulnerable people has never been more evident. I am a strong supporter of their work and the invaluable contribution they make to our community.”