Home > Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 51 - National Drugs Strategy [32629/07].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 51 - National Drugs Strategy [32629/07]. (05 Dec 2007)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

51. Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the way his Department spent the €200 million which the Government says it spent on problem drug use in 2006. [32629/07]

Deputy Pat Carey: The estimated expenditure of over €200 million on problem drug use in 2006 refers to spending across all Departments and agencies, rather than the figure for my Department alone. Through the interdepartmental group on drugs, relevant Departments and agencies reported on their 2006 expenditure and the total was in excess of €200 million. Of this amount, €41 million related to expenditure under the drugs initiative young people’s facilities and services fund, funded through my Department. In this context, the figures, which should be interpreted as indicative, relate only to services that are considered to be directly attributable to dealing with problem drug use. The figure does not take account of many mainstream services that also assist in tackling problems associated with drugs misuse. It has not proved feasible to accurately segregate the funding aimed at assisting problem drug users from that aimed at the wider community. A breakdown of the 2006 expenditure is set out in the following table.

Estimate of 2006 expenditure directly attributable to drugs programmes by Departments and agencies


Allocation 2006, € million

Department of Community Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs


Department of Health and Children


Health Service Executive




Department of Education and Science


Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government


Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform


Irish Prison Service


An Garda Síochána


Revenue’s Customs Service




Deputy Catherine Byrne: Last week we stated that over €200 million was spent on drugs and, on the streets, there is reason to believe it is not working. Whatever is happening to this money, it is not being spent on services. The tragic loss of the young man celebrating his 21st birthday brings home the lack of knowledge and understanding of the misuse of drugs, even on a once-off basis. People in my area have asked what impact the local task forces have and the manner in which the money is distributed to local task forces. How is there a lack of initiative from the local drugs task forces to deal with people on a one-to-one basis? Is it due to funding or are there not enough people employed in the services? Why are we dependent on voluntary groups, such as the Lions Club, to fund the travel of people such as the chief executive of Tacade in England to give in-service days to teachers in the Dublin area? Why is this not funded by the Government? I stress how important it is to seek the alcohol and drug awareness programme for students of senior cycle in school. It has not been set up and the Minister's reply last week suggested it would be some time before it is set up. We cannot wait any longer.

Deputy Pat Carey: There is still a serious misunderstanding of the magnitude of the problem facing us. I have never tried to minimise the challenge with regard to the scale of drug misuse. The local drug task forces and increasingly the regional drugs task forces have an impact. I am fairly conversant at this stage with their work. The local drugs task force work is a collaborative effort drawn up under the national drugs strategy. It is not the Government's strategy alone, it is a national drug strategy, primarily driven by the voluntary and community sector. I do not denigrate the input of State agencies but those working on the ground fully understand the impact the problem has on communities.

Deputy Byrne asked how the money is distributed. This happens through a process of submission, strategic plans and detailed submissions to the local drugs task force, in the first instance, which is then referred to the national drugs strategy team. A detailed assessment is done at that stage. Members of the national drug strategy team work full time and are drawn from State agencies and the community and voluntary sector. They make recommendations to me and, in my experience and that of my predecessor, the vast majority of programmes recommended are approved. The teams are aware of the allocation of money and the amount available to each local and regional task force is approved in consultation with them. The money available in the coming year will be no less than the amount for last year. All programmes are drawn down by prior agreement with those proposing them. Account is taken of value for money and a value for money audit has been carried out on most of them, with positive outcomes. The local and regional drugs task forces are the most efficient method of delivering services.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: I agree with the Minister of State. I grew up in an area plagued by drugs. People ask questions, including whether the local drugs task forces are making an impact. I was informed by three different local drugs task forces last week that one of the biggest problems they face is that of young people taking ordinary pills. This is a major problem in every community, even that which I represent, and I am concerned about it. I accept that money is being channelled into the projects but I must question whether what is happening on the ground is sufficient. It is obviously not sufficient because, if it were, young people of ten or 12 years of age would not be taking pills of all sorts. They can get some of these in the medicine chests in their own homes.
Deputy Pat Carey
The projects are having an impact. One of the best projects I have seen in recent times is the transition year project in the Deputy's area which is run in conjunction with the Ballyfermot youth service and local schools and which relates to raising awareness of drugs and alcohol misuse. The Deputy is well aware of Base and other projects in Ballyfermot, Inchicore and the south inner city and the impact they are having. One of our difficulties is that because there is a greater range of services available, more people are presenting in order to make use of them. This is a good sign of the effectiveness of these projects. It will be a long time before there is an entirely adequate response to many of the challenges we face.

Repository Staff Only: item control page