Home > Dail Eireann debate. Other question 58 - National Drugs Strategy [Task forces] [32598/07].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Other question 58 - National Drugs Strategy [Task forces] [32598/07]. (05 Dec 2007)

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

58. Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government, he will outline the specific proposals he has to develop and strengthen the range of projects being undertaken through the local and regional drugs task forces. [32598/07]

Deputy Pat Carey: During the term of this Government, we will continue to develop and strengthen the range of projects being undertaken through the local and regional drugs task forces under the national drugs strategy. In this regard, we will be informed by the work of the drugs task forces regarding the needs identified in their areas to tackle the problems associated with drug misuse. I envisage that the projects involved will continue to address issues such as prevention of problem drug use, appropriate treatment and harm reduction measures, rehabilitation and aftercare as well as supporting families and communities affected by illicit drug use. Approximately 300 interim funded community based projects in the 14 local drugs task force, LDTF, areas in Dublin, Bray and Cork have recently undergone an evaluation process and the report on this is expected to be finalised shortly. The recommendations of this report will help to inform decisions regarding the future mainstreaming of projects to various agencies and on how the range of projects might be strengthened in the future.

In the meantime, approximately €20 million is being provided in 2007 for the continued implementation of the strategic plans of LDTFs and to address emerging needs identified in the communities. More than €14 million per annum has been earmarked for the full implementation of the strategic plans of the ten regional drugs task forces, RDTFs. As one would expect, expenditure was low in the early period following the establishment of the RDTFs, but it is now building up as progress on the implementation of the plans accelerates. This year’s combined expenditure will be approximately €7.5 million, an increase of more than €3 million on the 2006 spend. We expect this figure to rise to the full implementation cost over the next two or three years, thus facilitating the development and strengthening of the range of projects being undertaken around the country. Furthermore, capital funding will continue to be made available through the premises initiative fund to meet the accommodation needs of community-based drugs projects in the task force areas. It is envisaged that such expenditure is likely to increase next year, especially as the RDTFs become more firmly established.

The Deputy should note that initial steps are being taken in my Department in the process that will lead to the development of a new national drugs strategy for the period 2009 to 2016. This process will facilitate the consideration of all aspects of the national drugs strategy and it may give rise to further development and strengthening of projects at community level. Deputy Jack Wall: I welcome the detailed reply given by the Minister of State. With regard to the projects he mentioned, the one thing we must do is consider the alternatives we can provide for young people who are attracted to drugs. What linkage has the Minister of State created through national sport and recreation organisations to develop alternatives? In many cases, we see associations going into large estates, cherry-picking the best young players and leaving many children behind. They are bored and have nothing to do and this is where drug barons can establish themselves. They can get youngsters with no recreation or sporting facilities available to them and who do not have an inclination to get involved in such activities. How many meetings has the Minister of State had with various associations on this matter? I realise the good work done by the task forces. However, we need to link this with initiatives taken by national sporting organisations. The two together can make a difference in providing an alternative to the problems which communities throughout the country encounter at present. Deputy Pat Carey: A key part of the national drugs strategy is precisely what Deputy Wall mentioned, namely, creating alternatives. This is being done, primarily through the young people’s facilities and services fund which is an engagement with existing organisations. I do not want to provide another layer of development. I am anxious that we work with existing organisations, local authorities, national sporting organisations and youth services. I see productive work where this has happened.

As I mentioned, last week in Waterford I saw excellent work done through a collaboration between youth services, the local authority and national and local sporting organisations. In Dublin, boxing is important. The Neilstown boxing club, for example, has benefited greatly from collaborating with my Department and the local drugs task force on developing alternatives. I meet the organisations mentioned by the Deputy in the context of their membership of local and regional drugs task forces. Approximately 30 sports and recreation officers have been appointed to drugs task force areas under the young people services and facilities fund and others have been appointed in RAPID areas. Their task is to engage young people in non-mainstream sports. Particular attention has been given to minority sports and young women, who are not great participants in some sports, have been targeted in certain areas. I believe in the value of engaging with existing organisations and we will embark on the roll-out of the young people's facilities and services fund for a range of projects in other parts of the country. On Friday, I will be in Carlow to open a new youth centre which was developed on a collaborative basis by my Department, the young people's facilities and services fund and the local partnership and RAPID programmes.

Deputy Michael Ring: Last week’s edition of The Sunday Tribune reported that drugs are available through the Internet. What proposals do the Government and the Garda Síochána have to stop this? It is bad enough that drug pushers are in every corner of the country but now drugs can be bought over the internet and received through the post. Is the Customs and Excise being given the support and finances it needs to stop illegal drug smuggling along our coasts? There is no doubt that the Irish Coast Guard has never before found as many drugs but that is only a small proportion of the overall quantity. When will a programme be established to educate young people in schools about the effects of drugs? We already have videos and tapes from sporting organisations. The issue should be part of the curriculum and videos should be shown in schools on the effects of drugs on families and individuals.

Deputy Pat Carey: In regard to Deputy Ring’s last question, an effective social, personal and health education, SPHE, programme is operating in every school. It is taught to junior certificate level and the National Council for Curriculum Assessment is now working on developing a programme for senior cycle. As I noted earlier, valuable programmes are being rolled out at local level and in-service training for teachers is being provided by the Department of Education and Science and the support team for the SPHE programme. In respect of resources for the Customs and Excise, I am unsure whether the Deputy is referring to matters such as scanners but I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners and the Customs and Excise that the resources they seek are made available to them. They are working closely with coastal communities and ports authorities to ensure drugs are intercepted. The report in the The Sunday Tribune is worrying. Classified drugs were ordered over the internet, paid for in cash and sent through the regular postal service. I have already had discussions with officials in my Department and the national drugs strategy team and we will meet next week to address this and other issues. I will not pretend for one minute that it will be easily addressed but it is a worrying development. I would discourage the practice because it is highly dangerous and entirely illegal but stopping it is easier said than done. Vol. 643 No. 1 Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Repository Staff Only: item control page