Home > Dail Eireann debate. Topical issue debate - Vocational education committees: National drugs strategy.

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Topical issue debate - Vocational education committees: National drugs strategy. (04 Oct 2011)

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Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: The rehabilitation and support programme, RASP, and the youth service, Sphere 17, are based in north Coolock in Dublin 17. RASP provides an outstanding community-based approach to anti-alcohol and anti-drugs support, education and outreach programmes and is the only community rehabilitation centre in the Dublin 17 region. Sphere 17 provides vitally important youth services for local children and young people aged from 10 to 21. Although both organisations run critical programmes and services in that part of my constituency, they are desperately worried their funding may be significantly reduced under budget 2012. My plea to the Minister today is that he examine the outstanding work of both organisations and at least ensure that the critical core funding provided in budget 2011 for RASP and the essential 2011 Sphere 17 funding are maintained under budget 2012.

RASP’s approach to citizens who have been addicted to alcohol or drugs is multi-disciplinary, providing vocational and therapeutic elements to get their clients’ lives back on track and play a key role in their families and their communities. Among the psycho-social and vocational support programmes run by RASP are weekly care planning; computer studies; literacy support; group therapy; drama therapy; cookery; one to one support; family support; counselling; homelessness and advocacy support; post-prison support; stabilisation programmes and after care support. One of their unique programmes is a horticultural training course with the support of the horticultural industry in north Dublin.

Since its inception in 1998 more than 200 people have been RASP clients and there are usually about 18-20 clients at any one time being supported by RASP. There are three people employed at the project, including participants who are supported by the community employment programme. The organisation is led, outstandingly, by the Coolock community activist, Mr. Kevin Behan, as chair, and by the general manager, Mr. Pat Hanna. From 2000 when RASP was mainstreamed it was funded with approximately €200,000 per annum but in 2009 this budget was cut by one third, to €138,848 per year.
The other Dublin 17 organization I wish to mention in the Dáil today is the Sphere 17 regional youth project which is located in the Darndale-Belcamp village centre, Dublin 17 and has three different youth work teams covering the Bonnybrook, Darndale and Priorswood parishes. I have been a long-time director of the Coolock development council campus where Sphere 17 is also now providing a new youth centre for Bonnybrook parish. Sphere 17 estimates that the population of young people in north Coolock between the ages of 10-21 is approximately 3,450, or 22% of the population. The project works with more than 1,500 local young people in this age group each year, through more than 170 different programmes.
The programme was founded in October 2005 and since July 2007 has worked out of an impressive new dedicated youth facility in Darndale village, under the tremendous leadership of Mr. Mick Ferron. It provides services up to 10 p.m. each night and at weekends, including educational, health, art, drug outreach and counselling programmes, as well as support for the local Traveller community. The wonderful ethos of Sphere 17 is found in its statement: “All young people have the ability to achieve great things; some just need a little support.” Importantly, Sphere 17 also facilitates the Woodale youth justice project which is part of the national Garda youth diversion projects. The programme had more than 17,000 registered contacts between local young people and the service in the past year and its detached youth work team made more than 2,000 contacts with young people through its evening street work programme. Twenty full-time professionals are currently employed by Sphere 17 alongside part-time and CE staff and more than 20 volunteers. In 2010, Sphere 17 received €1,198,195 in funding from a range of sources led by the City of Dublin VEC but in 2011 it received only €918,000 and, since 2008, its budget has lost €230,000.
RASP and Sphere 17 are already struggling to maintain the current essential services they provide and, like most community organisations, have come under severe pressure because of the impact of the recession on families and communities. It is therefore crucial that they and the people they and I serve have certainty that they will continue to receive the funding they need in 2012 and beyond.
Deputy Ciarán Cannon: I thank the Deputy for raising this matter.
My Department contributes to the overall aim of Government policy in regard to drugs and the national drugs strategy, which is to provide an effective integrated response to the problems posed by drug misuse. Part of my Department’s contribution to the national drugs strategy is to provide funding for a number of projects in local drugs task force areas.
RASP, the rehabilitation and support programme is a community-based drug rehabilitation project for adults who are in recovery from addiction. Through the provision of a community employment scheme it provides a number of placements for adults from the Dublin 17 area who are currently on a treatment programme with the adjacent Beldale Clinic, operated by the HSE. The project provides a programme which has an educational content and a rehabilitation emphasis.
This year, for the educational component of the programme, my Department has allocated €138,847 to RASP, which is the same as the 2010 allocation for the project. This funding primarily goes towards the cost of one staff salary, the cost of leasing a premises and other programme costs. My Department will take a decision regarding the provision of an allocation to RASP in 2012 in the context of the overall budgetary process for 2012.
Sphere 17 is a regional youth service for young people aged between 10 and 21 years in such areas as Bonnybrook, Darndale and Priorswood across Dublin 17. It provides young people with a wide range of programmes and activities which reflect their needs, interests, capacity and age profile. These programmes and activities include personal and social development with a particular focus on recreation, education and health.
My Department provided an allocation for the Bonnybrook Youth Project under Sphere 17 youth service in the years up to 2010. In 2010, my Department carried out a review of projects in local drugs task force areas. As a result, responsibility for 21 projects, including Sphere 17, transferred, with appropriate funding, to the then Office of the Minister of State with responsibility for children and youth affairs, with effect from January 2011. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs continues to provide allocations to the Sphere 17 regional youth service under several funding streams.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: In regard to these and similar vital projects throughout the country, can the Minister of State state that there will be a full cost benefit analysis before there are any further cuts? Some weeks ago, our colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, visited the Sphere 17 facility.
If we go down the road of introducing cuts, there will be a number of serious impacts. One of the worst impacts that will be felt by Sphere 17 if its funding is cut relates to its plan to open a new youth centre in the third major parish of north Coolock, namely, Priorswood. This project has already been postponed and if the budget is cut again, it will have to be postponed indefinitely. As the Minister of State will appreciate, Sphere 17 plays a vital role in supporting An Garda Síochána and its youth diversion programmes.
The chief executive of RASP, Mr. Pat Hanna, estimates that it costs in the region of €100,000 per annum to keep a prisoner in jail. In contrast, approximately €130,000 — or a little more than the former amount — can assist 18 to 20 people in overcoming addiction in order that they might begin to play a useful role in society. Mr. Hanna also estimates that for every €1 spent on anti-drug programmes, the State saves €3 in other costs.
I appreciate that there are organisations similar to those to which I refer in other constituencies. However, Sphere 17 and RASP are vital to the Dublin 17 area and it is critical that their funding for 2012 be maintained.
Deputy Ciarán Cannon: In addition to the funding provided for RASP and five other projects in local drugs task force areas, my Department is making a significant contribution in support of the prevention pillar of the national drugs strategy through the mandatory social personal and health education, SPHE, curriculum at primary level and in the junior cycle at second level, the initiatives under the delivering equality of opportunity in schools, DEIS, action plan to prevent early school leaving and achieve better educational outcomes for students and the guidelines on substance use policy issued to all schools. It will be a matter for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Fitzgerald, to approve decisions regarding future funding for the Sphere 17 Regional Youth Service. In this regard, I understand her Department will focus specifically on ensuring greater coherence, co-ordination and impact in youth policy and provision in order to ensure quality outcomes for all.
The Deputy has raised the possibility of carrying out a full cost-benefit analysis of the programmes to which he refers. I would be concerned that my Department would not have sufficient resources to allow it to carry out such an analysis, particularly in the context of engaging in the type of forensic investigation that would be required in order to establish whether the programmes provide a benefit for those who avail of them or whether the communities which they serve are obtaining full benefits from them. However, the Deputy’s concerns are extremely valid and he made a very compelling case for the retention of both services. I will undertake to pass on his concerns to the Minister when we are engaging in the final stages of the comprehensive spending review which is under way.
Topical Issue Debate - Vocational Education Committees
Vol. 742 No. 2
Tuesday, 4 October 2011

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