Sir —

“We failed to provide well enough for the mentally vulnerable when money was plentiful. So what chance now?”

Colum Kenny so rightly poses the question in his excellent reminder of how we as a nation treat our most vulnerable citizens (Sunday Independent, June 20). Over a quarter of a century ago, the then Health Minister Barry Desmond TD published the grand strategy Planning for the Future, and many patients in psychiatric hospitals were literally made homeless because no adequate community care services were provided as envisaged in the plan. We at Trust can testify to that because we still meet many of them as they are counted among people who are still homeless today.

In the past, hostels and night shelters became the dumping ground for people with serious problems — is there any reason to believe that the same will not happen in some of the housing likely to come on stream in the near future?

This will happen if there aren’t adequate support services put in place to ensure that the people discharged to live in the community are treated with dignity and respect.

At a time when state services for the most vulnerable people in society are being outsourced to the voluntary/private sector, serious questions need to be asked.

The ‘centres of excellence’ now widely referred to can make us feel something is happening.

When quoting from the report of the Mental Health Commission on the appalling conditions, it is worth noting that many people are still expected to deliver humane services in these conditions, and many have done so over the years and continue to do so today.

Alice Leahy,

Trust director (and co-founder),

Dublin 8