Waterford junior health minister Mary Butler says eating disorder cases have multiplied ten-fold in terms of anticipated figures in the space of five years.

She made the disclosure in response to an issue raised in the Dáil by South Tipperary TD Martin Browne in relation to a young male consistent unable to access proper treatment for avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), “which is more common than even the families knew,” resulting in physical, emotional and financial impacts “due to a lack of adequate medical pathways.”

Minister Butler, who has responsibility for mental health, said: “I liaise constantly with the providers of eating disorder supports throughout the country. Many young people are now presenting with eating disorders or disordered eating. Last year, 504 children, young people and adolescents presented to the eating disorder teams. When this scheme was initially put in place in 2018, when the relevant data were in place, it would have been expected that approximately 50 children per year would present.”

She added that while funding has been provided for an eating disorder team in the area the Sinn Féin deputy referred to, “it takes between 12 and 18 months to put a multidisciplinary team in place. There are also many inpatient supports for children with eating disorders,” maintained the minister, who was asked to meet the boy’s family.

Jamie O’Keeffe