Home > Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 42 - National Drugs Strategy. [13616/11]

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 42 - National Drugs Strategy. [13616/11]. (31 May 2011)

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42. Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children his views on the fact that the drugs issue, affecting many individual and families in every town and village across the country, will get the necessary support and attention; his plans for greater collaboration and integration for addiction and mental health programmes; and his plans for the Drugs Advisory Group and the Oversight Forum on Drugs in implementing the National Drugs Strategy. [13616/11]

Deputy Róisín Shortall: The Government decided to transfer the functions of the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs relating to the NDS to the Department of Health and Children with effect from 1 May 2011. I have been asked by the Minister to take the lead role in this area.

The Government is committed to addressing problem drug use in a comprehensive way and this is made clear in the programme for Government. Our overall strategic objective is to tackle the harm caused to individuals and society by the misuse of drugs through a concerted focus on the five pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research. The actions set out in the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 facilitate a planned and monitored approach to achieving the overall strategic aims.


The NDS is a cross cutting area of public policy and service delivery and it is based on a co-ordinated approach across many Departments and agencies in conjunction with the community and voluntary sectors. The institutional arrangements to support cross agency working, advise on operational and policy matters, assess progress across the strategy and address any operational difficulties include the drugs advisory group and the oversight forum on drugs. I intend that the work of these bodies will continue, as has been the case up to now. The national advisory committee on drugs also plays a key role and there are no plans to alter its functions.


In excess of €33 million has been allocated to the drugs initiative this year and the majority of expenditure is allocated to local and regional drugs task forces. They have allocated funding to projects and initiatives based on priorities identified in their respective areas. This allocation is only part of a much larger expenditure programme on drugs services by the other bodies involved in tackling drug misuse, not least of which is my Department.


I am familiar with the ongoing issues relating to the drugs problem in communities and the initiatives that have been taken to address them. The difficulties facing our society as a consequence of problem drug use are significant and addressing all the factors involved will not be an easy task but I am determined that progress will be made during the Government’s term of office on this important issue.


Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan: My concern arises because it was felt that the drugs issue would not be taken as seriously as Cabinet level as previously and the issue will not be covered specifically by any Cabinet sub-committees. I acknowledge responsibility has transferred to the Department of Health and Children but drugs is very much a community-based problem for many people. We have good, effective community-based drug projects in Dublin Central in the north inner city, including SAOL, Soilse, Crinan, the Cavan Centre, Chrysalis and Oasis. Will the Minister of State ensure their funding will not be cut? They provide an outstanding service with a limited budget. Where stands the inclusion of the alcohol strategy in the NDS?


Deputy Róisín Shortall: I agree with the Deputy that valuable work is being done by community-based drug projects and I am familiar with those in my constituency and other Dublin constituencies. There is no question of them discontinuing. Funding has been set aside for this year and that will continue to be available. The key work under the national drugs strategy is done by the local drugs task forces and it will continue apace. The oversight of that work will also continue.


With regard to implementation of the strategy, there is an oversight committee, which I will chair, and that will continue to meet on a quarterly basis and identify any logjams, difficulties or delays in implementing the strategy. We are, therefore, serious about ensuring it is implemented in full. In addition, the Minister will be responsible for this issue at Cabinet level and it will continue to have a voice at the Cabinet table. The Cabinet sub-committee on social exclusion will deal with this issue as well and many of the officials involved in the oversight will feed into the sub-committee. It will receive attention there and the sub-committee will meet later this week. I will attend that meeting and I will be a voice in respect of the NDS.


Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan: More deaths results from drugs and alcohol-related issues, including suicide, than from road traffic accidents. Significant resources are devoted to road safety and I do not begrudge that but we need the same emphasis on drug-related deaths. When something new emerges, for example, crystal meth, it should be tackled quickly. Is that being considered?


Deputy Róisín Shortall: With regard to the Deputy’s earlier question, the alcohol strategy will be included in the national drugs strategy. It was scheduled to happen this year. I have a particular interest in this area and I want to ensure it is addressed in the NDS. Alcohol abuse is a serious social problem and alcohol is also a gateway to the abuse of other substances. For that reason, it will be included in the NDS and I want early progress on that, particularly in respect of the enforcement of the law on underage drinking. I hope to report back on that over the coming months.


The purpose of the oversight committee is to address issues such as crystal meth and other developments relating to illegal drugs. All the relevant bodies are represented at a senior level and one of the committee’s functions is to update all the members on current trends in respect of drug misuse. I give an assurance that all of the relevant agencies are represented at a senior level. I will convene the first meeting of the oversight committee in the coming weeks.

Priority Questions - National Drugs Strategy
Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Vol. 733 No. 4 (Unrevised)

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