Home > Responding to addiction in a time of recession – BYAP seminar.

Pike, Brigid and King, Dermot (2013) Responding to addiction in a time of recession – BYAP seminar. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 47, Autumn 2013, p. 2.

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 On 24 June 2013 the Ballymun Youth Action Project (BYAP) hosted a seminar on responding to addiction in a time of recession. The purpose of the seminar was to provide an opportunity to step back and think about the experience of the impact of funding cutbacks, and the implications for this particular sector. Róisín Shortall TD described the seminar as providing a ‘critical space’ to reflect on what amounts to a slow dismantling of the safety net that has been created within local communities, leading to the re-marginalisation of particular areas.

The seminar was attended by over 80 representatives of community and voluntary agencies, funders, local people and political representatives. There were two speakers – Brian Harvey, an independent social research consultant, and Dr Mary Ellen McCann, lecturer in UCD’s School of Applied Social Science and former director of Ballymun Youth Action Project.

Dermot King, executive director of BYAP, outlines the key themes that emerged at the seminar.

Brian Harvey, having outlined the scale of the withdrawal of resources from community-led responses to poverty and social inclusion, particularly since 2002, echoed the sense among those present that no one could have anticipated the wave of destruction of our social, community development infrastructure that we are experiencing, when Ireland was previously seen as a European leader in this regard. He outlined what he termed a ‘strategic turn’ which began in 2002 and which was compounded by the 2008 economic and social crisis. Against a baseline figure of a 4.3% cut in government spending overall between 2008 and 2013, local and community development programmes have been cut by 42%, and the Drugs Initiative by 32%. It is estimated that by 2015, there will be 31% fewer workers in the voluntary and community sector. Mr Harvey added that no other country in Europe, so far as we know, has experienced such an extraordinary decline since 1948.

 Dr Mary Ellen McCann illustrated the intimate connection between community issues and drug problems, and how policies in either domain have large effects in other domains. In the context of competing consultancy reports, the call for ‘evidence’ needs to take account of a range of more subtle measures, including case studies which provide rich data to increase our understanding, and the utilisation of community indicators that allow access to a range of measures regarding what is really important for communities affected by drug use. She stressed that, in the context of the narrative of the development of community responses, the community needs to tell the community story.
Underlying the recognition of the current crisis and its origins, contributors were clearly wary of the talk of a straightforward recovery, where ‘all will be well again’. Instead, the speakers raised the real concern of ‘cost cutting’ becoming ‘penny pinching’ in the name of ‘reform’, and the growing hints of ‘post-austerity austerity’.
A clear message was given regarding the importance of holding on to the developments within the sector that have been achieved over the last 30 years, and the ‘footholds that have been gained’ in the creation of community responses and systems. The response within the voluntary and community sector must endure and, as Mr Harvey concluded, ‘It behoves us to make the case for an enlightened balanced European social model, with a role for civil society’.
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Issue Title
Issue 47, Autumn 2013
October 2013
Page Range
p. 2
Health Research Board
Issue 47, Autumn 2013
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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