Home > Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 107 - Drug treatment programmes places [3958/14].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 107 - Drug treatment programmes places [3958/14]. (28 Jan 2014)

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107. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding drug community employment schemes; the numbers on the scheme; the vacancies; the reasons for the vacancies; the age profile of the participants; the numbers availing of extensions on the schemes; and if she will identify areas of concern for the scheme. [3958/14] 

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: My question relates to the community employment drug rehabilitation scheme. We have discussed this subject on previous occasions. The Minister has visited some of the schemes. My question arises from the particular issues and problems which some projects in the north-east and north-west inner city have brought to my attention.
Deputy Joan Burton: I am pleased to inform the Deputy that considerable progress has been made in increasing the number of participants on the community employment drug rehabilitation schemes. A key first step in securing this improvement was the establishment of a stakeholder group which assists the Department to identify and implement enhancements to the scheme. In addition, workshops have been held with the scheme supervisors and departmental staff to ensure that the schemes meet the needs of participants. To complement these changes, an improved vacancy notification system and referral process was introduced. In January 2012, the schemes were transferred to the Department of Social Protection and 578 drug rehabilitation places were filled. This is a disappointing number as I said at the time. This increased substantially to 790 places by the end of December 2013. In addition, there are now 161 support workers, giving a total of 951 community employment places dedicated to drugs rehabilitation.
There were 23 available places advertised on the JobsIreland.ie website on 22 January last. The annual turnover on the scheme is just over 400 places. During any given year, participants can exit for many reasons, including illness or relapse, gaining employment, maternity leave, retirement, emigration, transfer to another scheme, exit to a training programme or full-time education or exhaustion of CE participation limits.

Data on the age profile of participants and participation duration is contained in the tables. All CE referred drug rehabilitation places participants are eligible for three years duration on the programme. In exceptional circumstances, there is provision for an extension of the duration on a mainstream CE project subject to the Department agreeing to that.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Drug rehabilitation schemes are primarily focused on social rehabilitation and improving educational and vocational development. The Department is currently developing a social inclusion strand on CE and the drug rehabilitation projects will be considered within this strand. The CE drug rehabilitation scheme plays an important role in helping recovering drug users to develop their personal and employment skills. In this regard, I am pleased that the number of places filled increased substantially last year.

Table 1: Age Profile of Participants on Community Employment Drug Rehabilitation Scheme.
Age Band
Under 20
55 and over
December 2013: CSM IT Extracts (Referred clients only)

Table 2: Duration of Participants on Community Employment Drug Rehabilitation Scheme.
Completed Years on CE
Under 12 months
One Year
Two Years
Three Years or more
December 2013: CSM IT Extracts (Referred clients only)
Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: I will read the full reply. The reality is the projects are experiencing difficulties in terms of both referrals and extensions. For example, one project told me there is a waiting time to get on a scheme. For somebody who applies on 9 January, it will be the end of January. In the normal scheme of things, that would be fine but these people are coming out of residential rehabilitation and they need to get on a scheme much more quickly. On the other hand, people are being referred to schemes but they are not ready for them. The projects are getting younger, less stable and with a less ready for work cohort applying to the schemes. Sometimes it seems to be just getting people off one register and on to CE schemes, regardless of whether they are ready for, and can get full value from, them.
Those involved in projects have told me it can sometimes take up to nine months to settle somebody who has been active in addiction into a CE scheme. At times, it can take even longer, so their time can run out on that scheme before they are ready to go on to the next stage. Some may have used that time on a CE scheme on another project, for example, for stabilisation or whatever. They then go on to a scheme which is offering FETAC accredited courses but they may not have the time to finish that qualification. There are travel costs with some of them because some projects take people from all over the city. Some of those are under the auspices of the City of Dublin Education and Training Board, so why can they not get a student card to cover some of the travel costs? There are also issues with child care.
Deputy Joan Burton: As the Deputy said, the drug rehabilitation scheme plays an important role in helping recovering drug users to develop their personal and employment skills. As Minister, I have provided for a duration of up to three years. It is quite a long journey and one which can be very difficult for some people, so we have endeavoured to make it flexible. In addition to the three years, there is a provision for a further extension of the duration on a mainstream CE project. If it is to be extended beyond three years, we would look to see that there was a serious educational and developmental complement so that the person would achieve certification and qualification because that would be very important if the person was seeking work.
The other issue is to find follow on work experience for people. In my experience, people who have been involved in addiction situations or who have had an addiction problem for a long time very often lack recent work experience and that is a very big barrier to them even when they have been clean and have been in rehabilitation. If they do not have the work experience as well as the education it is quite difficult for them to get further employment.
Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: There is also a major issue for those coming out of prison and being referred to a scheme. What the Minister is saying is sometimes not filtering down to the officials. Those involved in the projects are dealing with the officials and they are getting a different answer from them. Another point is about how one measures success and progression. For the officials, it is getting into education and getting work but for people who have been addicted, staying clean and sober is progress, getting their children out of care is progress, getting visiting rights to their children is progress and not going back to prison is progress. The projects need a lot more flexibility.
Most of those I know who work in them have been working there for ten or 20 years or for even longer. They are familiar with all of the issues. The gateway project, which I would very much like the Minister to visit to see some of these issues on the ground, gets 9.8% of its annual training budget from the Department of Social Protection. The inordinate amount of administrative work that its staff have to do from that budget is taking them from other work on the project.
Deputy Joan Burton: The Department took over these schemes in early 2012. I have long experience with people who have unfortunately built up addiction problems before going on a long journey of rehabilitation. That journey is important for them and for their families and children. I was a little taken aback to learn of the low level of take-up of these schemes before the Department took responsibility for them. I appreciate the information provided by the Deputy. I suggest that these specific issues could be taken to the stakeholders forum that we have set up. Many of those who had addiction problems but have gone through rehabilitation and are now clean following a long journey find that involvement in education, as opposed merely to training, is very important. As the Deputy knows, some of them go on to train to become counsellors and to participate in third level education. If the Deputy knows of specific issues that have arisen, the staff of my Department and I would certainly be interested in hearing about them. We have ring-fenced the places. In the particular cases in which we have made specific provision for a time extension, I would like to see a strong educational and developmental content.

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