Speech by Mr Ivor Callely, TD, Minister of State, at the launch of the FICTA skillnets training and education programme

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here with you today at the Clarence Hotel for the launch of the FICTA Skillnets Training and Education Programme and I wish to extend a warm welcome to each and every one of you. I believe that this is a very worthwhile initiative which will further enhance the role of complementary therapists going forward.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the work of Skillnets, I would like to take this opportunity to fill you in on the background. Skillnets was established in April 1999 by employer bodies and trade unions to support enterprises to develop strategic answers to their joint training needs. With funding from the Government and the EU, Skillnets established the Training Networks Programme in 1999. The enterprise-led approach to training is seen to be a process in which all decision-making is within the direct ownership and control of the enterprise. Skillnets primarily facilitates an enterprise-led approach to training and development through supporting the development of flexible and effective training delivery methods amongst those enterprises that previously had difficulty in accessing or benefiting from training.

The key difference in the Skillnets approach is that the enterprise has total decision-making power and can customise training to its specific needs. Skillnets does not specify the type or scope of training but supports the networks with resources and expertise.

The Skillnets approach is built around Training Networks (which are called Skill Nets) where companies get together to decide what training they want, how it will be delivered and who will deliver it. I am very pleased to note that Skillnets is funded under the National Training Fund through the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment.

The FICTA Skillnets Programme is developing courses specific to the complementary healthcare sector which will be of direct benefit to complementary therapists, many of whom are in the audience today. Work has already commenced and I understand that sixteen members of FICTA are undertaking the NUI Maynooth Certificate in Education and Training and Continuing Education.

As many of you here today will be aware, the Department of Health and Children has been working with complementary therapists over the past few years to improve the regulatory environment for complementary therapists.

As a first step in the process, my colleague, Mr Micheál Martin, TD, Minister for Health and Children established a forum in June 2001 to examine the practical steps involved in the better regulation of practitioners of complementary therapies.

Arising from the work of the forum the Minister requested the Institute of Public Administration to prepare a report on proposals for the way forward taking into consideration the formal views of the representative groups that participated in the forum.

This Report on the Regulation of Practitioners of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Ireland was launched by the Minister in November of last year. The publication of this report was considered to be a unique initiative supporting the development of complementary therapists in Ireland and has formed the basis for future developments.

The report provides an invaluable road map towards strengthening the regulation of complementary and alternative therapists practising in Ireland.

Over the past couple of years there have been a number of important developments in the health arena, which have been influential in advancing the stature of complementary therapists in Ireland

The Report on the Regulation of Practitioners of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Ireland prepared by the Institute of Public Administration delivered on an explicit Action – Action 106- contained in the Health Strategy – Quality and Fairness. Action 106 of the Strategy signals the Department´s intention to enhance the regulation of complementary therapists, as part of the comprehensive programme of reform envisaged for the regulation of health and social care professionals generally.

As detailed in the Health Strategy, there are a range of questions to be addressed in securing progress in the future towards strengthening the regulatory regime for complementary therapists. These issues include:

  • the categories of therapists to be covered;
  • the evidence base for each therapy;
  • the educational qualifications, training and experience of therapists;
  • the scope of practice involved;
  • the protection of the public and promotion of a quality service, including the efficacy of the therapies offered;
  • regulations governing complementary therapists in other countries; and
  • current proposals of statutory registration of health and social care professionals in Ireland.


The Health Strategy identifies quality and accountability as two of the four key principles guiding the future development of health services in Ireland. These two fundamental principles are obviously just as relevant to complementary therapists as they are to mainstream health professionals.

At its core, the provision of all health care is about people looking after people. Quality healthcare services must therefore be underpinned by the excellence of the skills, knowledge and expertise and the high standards of professional conduct maintained by all those who offer healthcare services to the public.

People´s trust in the standard of all care being provided must be copperfastened by a guarantee of quality and accountability. The development of such a quality culture is the responsibility of each and every provider of health care. Greater accountability must also come centre-stage for the provision of health care services to the public.

As highlighted in the Strategy, there are a number of important dimensions to the development of a high-quality and accountable health service. The report prepared by the Institute of Public Administration assesses these requirements in light of views expressed in the consultative process, international experience and also the breadth and diversity of services delivered within the complementary therapy sector in Ireland. It also reviews the steps that might be undertaken and mechanisms that might be put in place to better meet the imperative for quality and accountable care in the complementary sector.

Issues of particular importance in this respect, discussed in the report, include:

  • the education and continuous professional development of practitioners;
  • the development of research;
  • the protection of the public through better regulation; and
  • the gathering of better information on complementary therapies and practitioners;

Protection of the public must clearly be at the heart of effective regulation of any activity. As far as complementary therapists are concerned, there is an overriding requirement to ensure that the general public are properly informed so that they can be confident that a practitioner providing a service is competent to do so.

A key aspect of future developments as highlighted in the report, must be the provision of reliable and up-to-date information to the public. In this regard, all of us are very aware of that the good name and reputation of the majority can be damaged by the actions of a small minority. The scope for better regulation to address such critical issues as the problems caused by unqualified practitioners is a clear example of the benefits that better regulation can bring to the complementary sector.

A key lesson from the international experience, which is also drawn attention to in the IPA report, is the importance of the development of strong voluntary or self-regulation for complementary and alternative therapists. I am very conscious that much progress has already been made in this area. This highlights the potential for practitioners working together to meet the requirements of an enhanced regulatory system.

The strengthening of systems of education, training and skills development is a further key priority for the future. We must also begin to bridge basic information gaps in terms of the availability of statistics on complementary therapies and practitioners. The development of research in this area also requires support and development. I believe that the FICTA Skillnets initiative comes at a very opportune time and is an important component of the future development of education and training of complementary therapists.

The report prepared by the Institute of Public Administration recommended the establishment of a broadly based National Working Group to progress the agenda set out in the report, addressing the other important recommendations highlighted in the report in order to advise the Minister on future measures for the regulation of complementary therapists.

This National Working Group held its first meeting in May of this year. The Working Group is chaired by Teri Garvey, the broadcaster and educationalist and comprises 13 other members with backgrounds in complementary therapies, Government Departments and consumer bodies. I am pleased to note that there are two representatives from FICTA on the Working Group.

As you will appreciate, my colleague Mr Martin had a difficult task in selecting members for the Working Group. In looking to the membership it was necessary to strike a balance between the need to facilitate focused and effective working – which constrains the size of the group overall – and the need to ensure appropriate representation, and required skills, knowledge and expertise. The Working Group has had five meetings to date, the most recent meeting taking place yesterday.

This National Working Group, operating in co-operation with the representative bodies in this field will continue to develop the consultative process, building on the goodwill and positive attitude towards better regulation expressed by complementary therapists in the past. The Minister has told the Working Group that he expects it to work closely and collaboratively in an open and transparent manner with the broad range of stakeholders interested in the process

This Working Group, operating in co-operation with the various representative bodies, is ideally positioned to continue to develop the consultative process started by the Department, thus building on the goodwill and positive attitude towards better regulation expressed by many members of the complementary therapy field.

The approach we are adopting is therefore underpinned by a clear recognition that practitioners themselves are best placed to assess and evaluate the positive contribution that improved regulation can make to the delivery of services to the public.

To conclude, this morning I have touched on just a small number of developments currently underway in regard to complementary therapy and the Department looks forward to working with all stakeholders in the field towards establishing an appropriate system of regulation for complementary therapists.

Once again, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you this morning and I wish the FICTA Skillnets programme and every one of you here every success in the future.

Thank you.