Home > Dail Eireann Debate. Written answer 57 - Community employment drug rehabilitation projects [33426/13].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann Debate. Written answer 57 - Community employment drug rehabilitation projects [33426/13]. (09 Jul 2013)

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57. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection the numbers availing of community employment drug rehabilitation schemes in the Dublin areas; if there is an increase or decrease from previous years; and if she will outline the progress that has been made in ensuring the sustainability and development of these programmes. [33426/13]
Deputy Joan Burton: As at June 2013 there were 664 participants in drug rehabilitation projects in the three Dublin divisions, comprising 338 participants in Dublin Central, 130 in Dublin North and 196 in Dublin South. This represented an increase of 12% compared with the figure for June 2012, when there was 595 participants in drug rehabilitation projects in those divisions. Progress has been made in a number of areas in ensuring the sustainability and development of drug rehabilitation projects operated under the community employment scheme. This is in accordance with a commitment I gave when I took over the management of the scheme.

An improved vacancy notification system for drug rehabilitation places is now in place and has been advised to all scheme sponsors. This aims to improve the spread of draw-down of places within Dublin and across the country and increase awareness of these opportunities. Priority was given in the application of the additional 2,000 places provided by the Department in this year's budget. If Deputies have ideas on innovative means of providing additional places, I and my officials would be pleased to hear them.

A referral process has been introduced to ensure appropriate referrals to the rehabilitation places. The Department's referral protocol has been agreed with the National Drugs Rehabilitation Implementation Committee, NDRIC, and links with the emerging care and case management framework designed to promote an inter-agency response to the needs of people working towards rehabilitation. Earlier this year a stakeholders group for drug rehabilitation schemes was established by the community employment policy unit within the Department. This group acts as a consultative mechanism to assist the Department in identifying improvements to the current community employment drugs programme and advising on how we can attain efficiencies and value for money in the delivery of the programme.

As part of this development, a drugs awareness briefing workshop was held recently for officers within the Department who are working with the drug rehabilitation schemes. The workshop was delivered by key stakeholders from the statutory and community sectors, including scheme participants.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The objective was to inform and advise officers on developments in regard to drugs rehabilitation scheme places and to enhance their skills in working with the operators of the schemes.

My Department is a member of the Oversight Forum on Drugs, the Department of Health's drug advisory group and NDRIC, and supports drug task force activities. I am confident that all of these improvements and better local engagement will lead to the delivery of a better programme.
Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: I acknowledge that there is much that is positive in the Minister's reply. The financial review undertaken by her Department last October recognised the important role of the drug rehabilitation programme and recommended that it be a dedicated strand of the community employment scheme. It further advised that there should be a more coherent framework to ensure sustainability and development. I understand progress is being made in that regard, but will the Minister indicate how much consultation there has been with local bodies? I am very familiar with these schemes in the inner city, the people who participate in them and the vital role they play in individuals' recovery. 

They offer substantial learning paths but they are in disarray because of the changes to FÁS, FETAC, VECs and the NQAI. Previously accepted programmes are now not getting project accreditation and are unable to register. Can the process be speeded up so that they can register and get the accreditation they had in the past?


Deputy Joan Burton: I acknowledge Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan's knowledge and expertise in the area and the expertise of other spokespersons on other parts of Dublin city and other parts of the country. We took over community employment in January one year ago. Traditionally, drug rehabilitation places are difficult to fill, and it is often difficult to fill even 1,000 places. If Deputy O'Sullivan or other spokespersons have ideas about Dublin or other towns and cities where there are problems, I am open to discussing it.


We set up a stakeholder-and-forum approach and we are seeking to educate the officials dealing with case management of individuals. If someone has had serious drug addiction and a problem from a young age, the path to rehabilitation can be slow and lengthy. We have provided for that. For many people, the high point will be returning to education - and not simply to work - so that they can develop themselves over an extended period of time. Now that the schemes are in the Department, there is greater capacity for progression up to a five-year period so that people can free themselves, their families and their communities from being dominated and ravaged by drugs and can move into education and getting qualifications.


Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: It comes back to viable projects that have a good reputation and that are working with people in recovery. They are being slowed down in the registration and accreditation process. Community employment schemes are countrywide but I must make a point in respect of Dublin Central, which has twice the national average of lone parents and pockets of which have unemployment rates of 60% and higher. Community employment schemes are vital. Double payments is another issue. In grappling with the issues facing us, some further incentives are needed to get people onto the schemes. As well as what the schemes are doing, we must also consider the services they are providing, particularly child care. Community employment schemes can provide training in child care, as well as the service, but they also provide employment in preschools and crèches. There will be a need for more people with FETAC qualifications. There is a real gap that could be addressed.


Deputy Joan Burton: If the Deputy has queries about specific schemes, perhaps she can bring them to my attention. If there are specific issues, I will examine them. With regard to child care, we are working on the idea that all child care places availed of lead to a FETAC level 5 or 6 qualification. Getting to level 5 is a serious qualification in terms of the attractiveness of an individual for the employment opportunities available. Our hope is for a progressive structure with social contact and rehabilitation experience. The HSE can provide therapeutic input, which is separate to what the Department of Social Protection does. There is also a movement into education, personal development and, ultimately, qualifications in areas in which employment is a possibility.


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