Press Release

Ringfenced mental health funding vital to deal with long-term negative impact of COVID-19

Ringfenced mental health funding vital to deal with long-term negative impact of COVID-19 isolation on mental health of people who are homeless and struggling with substance misuse – Merchants Quay Ireland

Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI), the national homeless and addiction charity, has today launched the second phase of research into the impact of isolation resulting from COVID-19 on the mental health problems of the clients of MQI and of the HSE ACCESS service.

Conducted by independent research consultant Kathyan Kelly, phase two of this research warns that the effects of pandemic isolation on those who are homeless and suffering from mental ill health and substance use issues will continue to be evident for some time and it is crucial that supports are put in place.

Kathyan Kelly commented:

“‘The experiences of the study participants over the course of the pandemic paints a very real picture of the extreme social isolation already faced by people with mental ill-health, substance or alcohol use disorder and homelessness. Exacerbated by the restrictions, this isolation has led to increased suicidal ideation with planning, hospitalisation for mental ill-health, and while there have been gains in recovery they are, at best, tenuous. Six of the ten participants remain insecurely housed.

“The teams at both MQI and HSE ACCES have managed to engage and support these individuals throughout, but ring-fenced funding is needed to ensure that these, and other critical services, continue past the pandemic to support this marginalised population.”

The research makes the following recommendations:

  • Ring-fenced funding for mental health at statutory, voluntary and community level, in order to allow services to adapt and better respond to needs during emergency situations, to allow services such as MQI to gain direct access to counselling services for those in need and to facilitate face to face engagement between service providers and clients.
  • Increased emergency access to suicide intervention for those at-risk
  • Enable direct access to specialist counselling services (e.g.: domestic/sexual violence counselling professionals)
  • Ensure face-to-face engagement continues, which is not dependent on digital capacity
  • The provision of funding for the employment of professional staffing for dual diagnosed service users

Launching the report today via Zoom webinar, Minister Butler said:

“COVID-19 brought into focus the significant health inequalities faced by socially excluded groups such as those experiencing mental health difficulties, substance use disorder and homelessness or those with housing insecurity. I welcome the findings of this research report which identifies specific service improvements that are required to better support the needs of these groups. The Government and I, along with the HSE and its partners, remain fully committed to the continued provision and enhancement of services to those socially excluded groups that were the focus of this important research report.”

Commenting on the report, MQI Chief Executive Paula Byrne said:

“The first phase of this research showed that the effects of social isolation as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the mental health difficulties experienced by our clients, who were already living marginalised, socially excluded lives. Phase two has highlighted to us that the long-term impact of the pandemic on these clients includes increased suicidal ideation and hospitalisation. It is essential that supports are put in place to deal with what will evidently be the continued impact on the mental wellbeing of the most vulnerable people in our society. When treatment takes a holistic view and includes housing and social supports, individual outcomes are improved. By being there as a support for people continuously we can start to reshape their coping strategies. In order for MQI and HSE ACCES to continue to meet the needs of our clients, ringfenced funding for mental health support at every level is vital.”




Note to the editor:

About Merchants Quay Ireland

Merchants Quay Ireland is a leading Irish charity working with people who are homeless and in addiction. The organisation provides services ranging from open access crisis intervention and health promotion services to day-support programmes, educational programmes, vocational training, residential treatment, detox and prison counselling.


This research was carried out between Merchants Quay Ireland and the HSE ACCES programme.

The research focuses on the lives of ten participants – five linked in with MQI and five linked in with HSE ACCES – who have experience of a mental health illness, substance use issue and/or homelessness, or any combination of these both before and after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.


A copy of the report is available here

An executive summary of the report is available here


For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Laura McDowell

Communications Coordinator

Merchants Quay Ireland

M: 086 779 3206





Twitter: @MerchantsQuayIR


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