Home > Impact of cuts on communities and drug services.

Harvey, Brian (2010) Impact of cuts on communities and drug services. In: Community drugs problem: defining the problem - defending the responses conference, 15 October 2010, Dublin.

PDF (Impact of cuts - presentation) - Published Version

CityWide commissioned Brian Harvey, a highly respected social researcher to look at the Impacts of Cuts on Communities and Drugs Services

Brian outlined his findings:
Although the government had conveyed the impression that all sections of society should take the pain equally and that cuts were taking place across the board, in reality social, voluntary and community services had been worst hit. 41 state agencies have been abolished, most in the social policy area. Although poverty, disadvantaged communities and drugs are intimately connected, the Combat Poverty Agency has been abolished.

The success of the present national drugs strategy (2009 -2016) is at serious risk because of the cuts to drug services that have been imposed in the two years that followed the adoption of the strategy.

There is no formal input model for the drugs budget. The State gives 3 figures for drugs budget:
• Comptroller & Auditor General
• CRAG, in National drugs strategy 2009-2016
• Ireland report to European monitoring centre in Lisbon, Portugal
• From €140m to €264.276m to €275m

The budget for voluntary and community drugs services has been reduced by 20% over the past two years, at a time when the national budget has actually risen +4.2%. This year, in 2010 alone, overall government spending was down -1.8%, but spending on voluntary and community drugs services was down -11%. Worryingly, there were significant reductions in budgets for flanking organizations dealing with the supply of drugs and the prevention of crime (e.g. the garda budget) and rehabilitation (the probation services budget).
The rates of drug use in Ireland are higher than the European average. Calculations from Britain and further afield showed that for every €1 invested in voluntary and community drugs services, between €3 and €9 were saved in health services, unemployment, criminality and policing.

The government is ignoring the advice of a report which it had itself commissioned, the Goodbody review of local voluntary and community drugs services. This review found that such services were effective in promoting trust between communities and the gardai, identifying the sources of supply, reducing drug use, preventing children from using drugs, helping teachers to intervene, challenging dealing, keeping people drug free, helping abusers normalize their lives and preventing relapse.

There is now a real danger that these gains are at risk and the progress made in the most disadvantaged communities lost. Already, there is evidence of jobs lost in voluntary and community organizations engaged in community development in general and in drug related work in particular. The Merchants Quay project has in only the past weeks painted an alarming picture of increased demands on its services.

Ireland has the highest rates of poverty but lowest rates of social spending in the E.U.

The community sector must document the effects of cuts themselves to put the situation right in the future because nobody else is going to do it. There are low levels of research on measuring the impact of community work on the community. Apart from the Goodbody review there is no primary research on the effectiveness or local outcomes of community work.

Brian warned that the cuts, if continued, were likely to lead to:
• Fewer people using services (e.g. methadone treatment)
• Longer waiting lists
• Higher prevalence rates in a country already high by European standards
• Earlier addiction by children
• More ill-health attributable to drugs, including premature death
• More crime, especially intimidation, anti-social behaviour, break-ins, jump-overs
• A failure to stop supply and challenge dealing
• A diminished ability of the gardai to respond and search for drugs
• A decline in social capital and quality of life in already disadvantaged communities

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