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Home > Dáil Éireann Debate. Drug treatment programmes.

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann Debate. Drug treatment programmes. (07 Mar 2013)


Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: There is a long history of community-based drug and alcohol abuse prevention and education initiatives in Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle, as well as across the whole of the old Dublin North-East constituency. We have had a number of outstanding initiatives in this regard, including the rehabilitation and support project, RASP, in Darndale-Belcamp; the Kilbarrack Coast community programme in Kilbarrack-Foxfield; and the Howth peninsula drugs awareness group, HPDAG, which was led for many years with great diligence by Captain Brian Doyle of Howth. In 2012, funding ceased for the HPDAG, which had operated for almost a decade. There is now clearly a strong need for a new education and prevention project to address the gap left by the ending of the earlier drug prevention programme. In addition, the €110,000 in funding allocated to the south-east Fingal catchment area as part of the HPDAG programme remains unused. Howth Sutton Community Council is the umbrella group for up to 40 affiliated organisations in the Howth peninsula area. The chairman, Mr. Charles Sargent, and his colleagues, Mr. Raymond Sexton and Mr. Niall Watters, recently briefed public representatives about a proposal they have submitted to the Department of Health and the local Dublin north east drugs task force, which advocates a south-east Fingal drugs and alcohol project. Their aim is to establish, under the community council, a community-based drugs and alcohol abuse prevention and education programme for the four parishes. 


Howth Sutton Community Council, through the work of lead researcher Mr. Watters, has provided a detailed and extensive submission which identifies a clear need in the areas referred to for a prevention and information programme tailored to drug and alcohol problems. Mr. Watters notes that there was a 4% increase in the population of the Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle electoral area between the 2006 census and the 2011 census, with a 19% increase in the Baldoyle area because of the expansion of the north fringe. There are worrying statistics provided in the Watters report on alcohol and drug prevalence in the north-east region, which underlines the need to provide the programme I advocate today.


The most recent 2010 and 2011 National Advisory Committee on Drugs survey on drug use in Ireland reported that in the north Dublin region, 35% of all respondents aged between 15 and 64 reported taking illegal drugs. In ongoing national surveys, the figure for lifetime use of illegal drugs is generally higher in the north Dublin region than nationally and, significantly, alcohol is also being used by 80% to 90% of the people across the 15 to 64 age group. Research undertaken by the Health Research Board indicates that in 2010, 33 people were referred for problem alcohol and drug use in the Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle catchment area.


Howth Sutton Community Council has identified a series of service needs in the region, where there is currently a significant gap. These include a structured education and prevention programme, aimed in particular at high-risk young people; enhanced family support services; a concentration on supply control, especially through enhanced co-operation between the local community and the Garda; and anti-addiction, rehabilitation and support measures, including counselling and training. The proposal sets out clear principles of strict governance under the community council and Companies Acts with a projected budget of €80,000. It would be based alongside the youth project in the Baldoyle area. This is a vital project that will provide critical drug and alcohol education and prevention programmes at minimal cost to the State. It is also important for the Howth-Sutton peninsula that funding is provided for this key service.


The Minister of State may remember that in the 1980s and 1990s, part of the vulnerability of Howth, Sutton and neighbouring parishes was our strong maritime connection. At the time there were allegations that part of the problem of supply was the issue of maritime vigilance and surveillance, and over recent decades monitoring has been much more successful. There is a particular historical vulnerability in the region in question so I urge the Minister of State to fund and support the proposal by Howth Sutton Community Council.


Deputy Alex White: I thank Deputy Broughan for raising the matter. On 7 January, my Department received an application from Howth Sutton Community Council for funding to establish a drug and alcohol prevention project in south-east Fingal, which would serve communities in Baldoyle, Bayside, Sutton and Howth. The council wishes to set up a project to address a gap in service provision that has arisen as a result of the closure in June 2012 of a community-based drugs project serving the Howth-Sutton peninsula. Funding for the latter project was withdrawn by the HSE as a result of deficits with regard to governance, financial control and accountability that emerged during an audit of the project.


The need for support within communities for education on prevention for young people and support for families has been identified by Howth Sutton Community Council on the basis of findings from a strategic evaluation of projects conducted by the Dublin north east local drugs task force in late 2011, as indicated by the Deputy. This evaluation included the former project serving the Howth-Sutton peninsula.



Drug Treatment Programmes Continued


[Deputy Alex White:] Supplementary research undertaken with local schools and community actors in late 2012 also informed the research findings.


The key recommendations arising from the research are that a project be developed in partnership with existing community and statutory agencies, which would work with schools and youth and family support groups to develop local strategies for substance misuse education and prevention. The proposal envisages that the project would initially focus on prevention, education and family support, with expansion into client case management to be undertaken in the medium term if resources become available. The cost of the project, which would involve hiring a co-ordinator and a project worker, is estimated at €79,000 per annum.


As the Deputy will be aware, drugs task forces play a key role in assessing the nature of the drug problem in their areas and co-ordinating action at local level so that there is a targeted response to the drug problem in local communities. Some €29.95 million has been allocated to the drugs initiative in 2013. The majority of this contributes to the running of community-based drugs projects supported by local and regional drugs task forces. This includes an allocation of €988,234 to Dublin North East Drugs Task Force, which has responsibility for tackling the drug problem in the south-east Fingal area.


It is a matter for each drugs task force to decide which projects to support based on agreed priorities for its area within the overall budget available to it. The allocation to Dublin North East Drugs Task Force was determined on the basis of the community-based drugs projects it recommended for funding in 2013.


I have been in contact with Howth-Sutton Community Council. I wrote to Mr. Sargent in January 2013 and have advised the council to submit its proposal to Dublin North East Drugs Task Force for consideration. I have indicated in the letter that my Department will consider the proposal if it has been recommended by the task force. At this stage, the drugs task forces have been advised of their allocations for 2013. The funding of any additional measures is contingent upon the resources available to me for the year.


Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: From what the Minister of State is saying, does it follow that if the recommendation from Dublin North East Drugs Task Force is strongly in favour of the proposal from Howth-Sutton Community Council, whatever resources are necessary and made available to the Minister of State will be made available for the project? In other words, could there not be additional resources given that the €110,000 for 2012 and which would have been spent on the old project was not spent? I presume the Department was able to return the money to the Exchequer. Is the bottom line that the Minister of State will not have funding if he gets the recommendation?


The Minister of State referred to the audit of the earlier project. Does he agree that there is an ongoing need for the programme of prevention of drug and alcohol abuse, as outlined by Howth-Sutton Community Council and as strongly indicated in the detailed research which was excellently put together by Mr. Niall Waters? Does the Minister of State accept that there is a clear need, as outlined in the paper he would have read? Before making any final decision, will he liaise with the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Children? Those Departments, through the local schools and the youth project being run in conjunction with the relevant authorities in Swords, and the outstanding gardaí in Raheny and Howth, would also be very supportive of the proposal.


It is very interesting that the proposal includes a reference to alcohol. When will the Government bring forward the sale of alcohol Bill? What has the Minister of State decided on the question of having a minimum alcohol price? Can we expect an announcement on this?


Deputy Alex White: In my letter to Mr. Sargent in January, I indicated my stance on the proposal. In so far as I understand the proposal, as it has been explained by the Deputy and as I have seen in the correspondence, I believe it has considerable merit on the face of it. However, I will not pre-empt any decision we might be in a position to make once a decision is made by the drugs task force. It is a matter in the first instance for the local drugs task force to decide to consider the proposal. As the Deputy will appreciate, we rely very considerably on the local drugs task forces, which have local knowledge owing to their being embedded in their communities. For many years, the value of local drugs task forces has been the local and community connection. I rely and must rely on their expertise and sense of community priorities, as does the Department. I want to see what the local drugs task force has to say about this in the first instance before indicating anything further, other than to say that I will consider the matter when it arises.


The Deputy will appreciate that I have an annual allocation for the drugs strategy. The great bulk of it goes to local and regional drugs task forces. The amount of money is finite. I, no more than any other Minister, cannot create resources where they do not exist but I am very strongly committed to our ongoing work in the area of drugs misuse, particularly the community dimension. I will certainly do anything I can do to enhance and assist the work of local projects through the local drugs task forces.


The Deputy asked about alcohol. The Tánaiste and Taoiseach have indicated to the House that work in respect of the proposals for a public health (alcohol) Bill has been progressing. I have had a number of meetings with ministerial colleagues in the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. There was a lengthy discussion on this issue at a meeting of the Cabinet committee on social policy a couple of weeks ago. Work is progressing very well. As a relatively new Minister of State, I am learning that it is not always best to specify a particular date by which something will happen because inevitably slippages occur in the management of Government business. I am hopeful, however, that we can bring the finalised proposals for a decision to the Cabinet during March. If this does not occur in March, it should happen at some time early in April.


The question of a minimum alcohol price will feature prominently in the proposals and, I hope, the decisions to be made by the Government.

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 795 No. 3

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