Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 90 - Community employment drug rehabilitation projects [10609/14].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 90 - Community employment drug rehabilitation projects [10609/14]. (05 Mar 2014)

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90. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection the composition of the stakeholders forum; the frequency of its meetings; the issues discussed and her assessment of its work; the number of times and for whom the workshops have been held; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [10609/14] 

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): I understand that the focus of the Deputy's question is around the Community Employment (CE) Drugs Rehabilitation Advisory Group which was established following the transfer of CE Schemes into the Department of Social Protection. As the Deputy is aware, there is special provision under CE to address the social and learning needs of persons emerging from drug mis-use in order to support them on their journey of rehabilitation.

I recommended that this Group be put in place to act in a consultative and advisory capacity to the Department on these matters. The first meeting of the Group was held on 4 April 2013. Membership of the Group is drawn from representatives nominated by the following key stakeholders:
- Health Service Executive (1)
- Department of Health - Drugs Policy Unit (1)
- National Drugs Rehabilitation Implementation Committee (1)
- City of Dublin VEC (1)
- Community Sector (1)
- Voluntary Sector (1)
- Regional Drugs Task Forces (1)
- Local Drugs Task Forces (1)
- Community Employment Scheme (1)

As well as the 9 representatives outlined above, there are two Departmental officials on the Group and the secretariat function is also provided by the Department.

The Advisory Group meets on a quarterly basis and since its establishment progress has been made in a number of areas in ensuring the sustainability and development of the drug rehabilitation strand on CE. One of the main benefits of the Group is the opportunity it gives to share information, raise concerns and share views on how the programme is operating and to explore areas for improvement.

The promotion of CE as a resource available to participants emerging from drug-misuse is a key issue for the Group. To date the following measures have been put in place:
- An improved vacancy notification system for places for drug rehabilitation is now in place and has been advised to all scheme sponsors;
- A CE Drugs Referral process has been introduced to ensure appropriate referrals to the rehabilitation places. The referral protocol was developed in consultation with representatives of the Advisory Group and the National Drugs Rehabilitation Implementation Committee;
- Information sharing with Treatment Centres and other referral points in the drug rehabilitation process is a key priority and one in which the Advisory Group have a key role;
- A point of reference for the Group is the provision by the Department of data on participation rates, profile of persons on the special CE strand and outcomes achieved on the programme;
- A key issue for the Group is how to ensure that a multi-agency approach is present and continues to be made available to participants should they need it while on CE e.g. counselling and back-up treatment supports.

Priority of drugs rehabilitation referral places was included in the application of the additional 2,000 CE places provided by the Department in the 2013 budget. Overall 29 additional drug rehabilitation places have been allocated, in addition to this one innovative Drug Project has been approved (Kildare Addiction Services, with 21 places). Training and development of CE participants on rehabilitation schemes now form the core function of activities provided.

The provision of guidance and information to Department staff who oversee these projects in terms of the needs and challenges was identified within this forum. In this context, it should be noted that:
- In July 2013, a drugs awareness workshop was held for Department staff who are working with schemes with drug rehabilitation places. The workshop was delivered by key stakeholders from the statutory and community sectors involved in the Advisory Group and included presentations from scheme participants.
- This was followed up by a workshop for CE Supervisors who work on mainstream projects to heighten their awareness of the needs of the client group.

Feedback from both workshops was very positive and the Department will continue to engage with staff and CE Schemes in this way.

I would like to invite the Deputy to meet with officials in the Department at her convenience to discuss this work in more detail and also address any other issues of concern to her.

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