Madam, – The manner in which some of our fellow citizens with mental health problems are treated in our psychiatric hospitals, as revealed by the Inspectorate of Mental Health Services (Front page, December 28th), amounts to cruel and degrading treatment, and clearly represents the worst example of the denial of human rights in this State. It must be tackled as a matter of urgency.

Those of us who work with people who are homeless, many of whom are former patients of these institutions, are well aware of the scale of this scandal, and the manner in which the State has sought to address it in the past. Reform programmes have always been nothing more than cost-saving exercises. Indeed, your report clearly showed that even where commitments were made to retain resources generated on the sale of some of these Dickensian institutions to build modern facilities, these commitments were not honoured.

We should not forget either the many dedicated staff, who, over the years, provided care and continue to do so, in these appalling facilities.

In reform proposals for the future, the Minister of State with responsibility for mental health, John Moloney, intends to close down many of these psychiatric hospitals and replace them with community facilities. The same commitments were made over two decades and some institutions were closed, except that adequate community care was not provided, and many former patients ended up homeless on our streets.

Regrettably in the latest reform strategy the same mistake will be made again, because not only is it unclear how the community care facilities will be funded, but there is no mention as to how accommodation for former patients will be paid for, with the assumption that the local authorities will shoulder the burden. The latter underlines the shamefully disingenuous nature of the Government’s commitment to our most vulnerable citizens with mental health problems, especially at a time when Dublin City Council is outsourcing housing support services to save money. – Yours, etc,