The Chief Executive of the Mental Health Commission has told the Dáil's Special Committee on the Covid-19 Response that the mental health system in Ireland is not fit for purpose and is out of date.

John Farrelly told committee members that there is a need to invest properly in community services and to stop "making excuses".

He said that until we invest properly, services for children will not improve to the degree that they should be at in this day and age.

There was a governance issue within the HSE, he said, and mental health needs to be put higher on the agenda.

Mr Farrelly explained that the old government policy was that there was a national director for mental health, but this person is not longer there.

The committee has heard from representatives from the Mental Health Commission and voluntary mental health groups.

TDs listened to concerns about funding, and the impact of the pandemic on people using mental health services.

Sinn Féin TD Mark Ward asked the HSE if it agrees with Mr Farrelly's comments that services are not fit for purpose.

The HSE's Head of Operations for Mental Health, and Assistant National Director, said they need to "make the very best" of the resources that they have in these circumstances.

Jim Ryan said there has been "significant investment in infrastructure", but added that this does not mean there isn't a need for more resources in mental health.

"I fully agree that there is always a need for more resources in mental health", he said.

The committee has also heard that there was a drop in demand for community child and adolescent mental health services, and in the number of referrals received during the pandemic.

However, Professor Brendan Doody, the Clinical Director of the Linn Dara Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service with the HSE, told TDs that numbers are expected to increase significantly when young people return to school.

He said they usually experience a reduction in referrals to services during periods of school holidays, but he acknowledged that this "isn't really a school holiday" and young people "remain under a significant degree of stress".

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall said it is "disappointing" that the HSE has not proposed any new services to deal with mental health issues in the primary and pre-school age groups.

She said services were not coping before Covid-19 and there is a clear need for additional services now.

Mr Ryan told the committee that while no new services have been proposed "at the moment", it is something the HSE needs to take on board.

But, he said, the focus is on stepping up both the primary and secondary care services for the younger age group.

Additional reporting by Maggie Doyle