Home > Where do illicit drugs fit in the new social inclusion policy framework?

Pike, Brigid (2007) Where do illicit drugs fit in the new social inclusion policy framework? Drugnet Ireland, Issue 23, Autumn 2007, p. 5.

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Published in the last 12 months, the new social partnership agreement,1 national development plan2 and action plan for social inclusion3 have all reflected the emergence of a new social inclusion policy framework in Ireland. While not altering the direction of drug policy, the new framework has changed the way in which the drugs issue is presented. 

In 2001 the Review Group that drafted the National Drugs Strategy 2001–2008 welcomed the situating of illicit drug policy within the context of social inclusion: ‘The Group fully recognises that, notwithstanding the obvious benefits for communities affected by the drugs problem of having a specific drugs strategy, the best prospects for these communities, in the longer term, rest with a social inclusion strategy which delivers much improved living standards to areas of disadvantage throughout the country.’4  At that time the illicit drugs issue was dealt with in social inclusion policy documents such as the national development plan 2000–2006, the social partnership agreement for 2000–2003 and the national anti-poverty strategy, under functional headings including healthcare, education and training, regenerating disadvantaged communities, tackling homelessness, and tackling crime. 

In 2005 the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) published a report, The developmental welfare state, which proposes a new streamlined and comprehensive approach to tackling poverty and social exclusion in Ireland. Acknowledging that serious social deficits remain despite Ireland’s economic progress, the NESC report calls for a recasting of the social debate in a way that does not distinguish between the economic and the social, suggesting that this will help to build consensus across the social partners, government and wider society. It proposes two innovations in the way in which social inclusion interventions are presented:

o      Interventions should be organised according to a lifecycle framework, comprising four categories – children, people of working age, older people, and people with disabilities.  This arrangement both places the individual at the centre of policy making and encourages a more joined-up and multi-disciplinary approach to policy making.

o      Greater recognition and weight should be given to the role of services in providing protection against risks and to activist measures, or innovative social policy initiatives, in meeting unmet needs and pre-empting problems, as opposed to focusing entirely on income transfers

In the suite of new social inclusion policy documents mentioned in the opening paragraph, the illicit drugs issue is now placed within the childhood, youth and people of working age stages of the lifecycle framework, and interventions are listed under either ‘Services’ or ‘Innovative Measures’. Details of the most recent social partnership agreement, Towards 2016,1 and the National development plan 2007–2012 2 have been described in previous issues of Drugnet Ireland.5 In this issue the presentation of the illicit drugs issue in the National action plan for social inclusion 2007-2016 (NAPincl), published in February 2007,3 is described.NAPincl includes an additional category – Communities – which the NESC report acknowledges as an important source of activist or innovative measures. 

Children: NAPincl sets targets for the provision of health services for children that include access to treatment for 100% of problematic drug users aged under 18 years within one month of assessment; the introduction of substance abuse policies in 100% of schools by 2008; and the use of results from various surveys to inform policy making and service planning (p. 34). Under the heading of Innovative Measures, NAPincl endorses the Young Person’s Facilities and Services Fund (YPFSF). It notes that the Fund may be extended to other disadvantaged urban areas (p. 37).  

People of working age: Under Services, NAPincl emphasises the link between access to a quality health service and participation in the social and economic life of society. Working to improve the health status of vulnerable groups such as those with mental illness, drug users, the homeless and Travellers is seen as ‘an essential element of social inclusion’. Actions include ensuring that people who are not able to meet the cost of GP services for themselves and their families are enabled to do so (p. 45). 

Communities: Within this category, NAPincl itemises a number of Innovative Measures in areas such as arts, sport, and active citizenship which are expected to have an impact on the illicit drugs issue. NAPincl also lists a series of community-based programmes which will have an impact on the illicit drugs issue, including the Local Development Social Inclusion Programme, the Community Development Programme, the RAPID Programme, the Community Services Programme, Joint Policing Committees, and Family Support Services. The National Drugs Strategy is included in this grouping.


1. Department of the Taoiseach (2006) Towards 2016: ten-year framework social partnership agreement 2006–2015. Dublin: Stationery Office.

2. Government of Ireland (2007) National development plan 2007–2013: transforming Ireland – a better quality of life for all. Dublin: Stationery Office.

3. Government of Ireland (2007) National action plan for social inclusion 2007–2016. Dublin: Stationery Office.

4. Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation (2001) Building on experience: national drugs strategy 2001–2008. Dublin: Stationery Office. Para. 6.1.9.

5. Pike B (2006) New social partnership agreement addresses drugs and alcohol. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 19: 7; Pike B (2007) The National Development Plan and the drugs issue. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 21: 23–25.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Issue Title
Issue 23, Autumn 2007
July 2007
Page Range
p. 5
Health Research Board
Issue 23, Autumn 2007
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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