Home > Dail Eireann. Topical issue debate - Community employment drug rehabilitation projects

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann. Topical issue debate - Community employment drug rehabilitation projects. (05 Mar 2014)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, is well aware of some of the special community employment schemes in the city of Dublin and other areas. A special community employment scheme is one which can help those participating in drug rehabilitation programmes and recovering from drug abuse. It is one way the State has helped those who are down on their luck and have managed to take the first steps in recovery.

This is not simply in respect of recovery from addiction but also from all the consequences of that addiction. It has allowed participants to take part in a three-year programme that allows them to recover their self-esteem and to make up for the fact that in many cases they did not avail of educational opportunities when young because of their drug addiction. Similarly, given their chaotic lives and the results thereof in respect of their relationships with friends and families, such programmes address how to rebuild those, as well as giving the participants the tools and skills required to play as full a role as they can in society in the future.
The scheme that is the subject of the issue I raise today is the Community Lynks Project in the Oblates, Inchicore. It is quite a good scheme, although I do not know whether the Minister has managed to visit it. It is similar to quite a number of other schemes and the participants all play as good a role as they can. Moreover, they have been helped in those roles by the supervisors of the community employment scheme, and in this instance the project has had a number of supervisors. However, a question mark has been raised as to whether the full complement of community employment supervisors will be retained.
I implore the Minister to try to address the situation and the particular problems faced by the Community Lynks Project and other special CE programmes because of the chaotic nature of some of the participants, who are at various stages of recovery. This can affect the number of participants in such schemes on an ongoing basis. There was an agreement between the various projects and the Minister to ensure a ratio would be worked out that would allow the supervisors to maintain some degree of communication on a one-to-one basis. While this is required under these circumstances, it is not necessarily required at the same level elsewhere. There was a recognition that the ratio in these schemes should be reduced. At present the Community Lynks Project has 32 participants, but I am informed that by the end of this week or early next week that figure will have risen to 38. However, as a review is under way at present in respect of the number of supervisors to be allowed, I urge the Minister that no decision on the future be taken without considering the future numbers of participants in the scheme. It allows for 40 participants on the scheme and while it is running below that figure at present, I am informed that by the end of the week the scheme will be close to the maximum number. Consequently, I urge the Minister to deal in particular with the temporary situation that obtains at present, whereby last week was to be the final week for one of the supervisors before the position was extended by one month. There cannot be such a situation on a month-by-month basis in which supervisors have their contracts extended. A sustainable solution must be found in this regard.
Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): I thank Deputy Ó Snodaigh for raising this important issue and assure him that I am very familiar with the Oblates and am aware of this project. As the houses of my dad's sister and my grandad backed onto the grounds of the Oblates in Inchicore, I have known them all my life. Consequently, the Deputy may rest assured that I know exactly where we are talking about. It is an important project.
First, I wish to confirm that there is no departmental moratorium in place for sponsoring organisations in respect of the recruitment of community employment supervisors. I do not know why the Deputy might think some kind of moratorium was in place because this is not the case, and I now confirm this for him formally. Where the sponsoring organisation wishes to proceed and the number of participants employed on a project warrants the hiring of additional supervision, an application setting out the justification for the additional resource should be submitted by the sponsor to the Department for approval under the community employment supervisory grant. The community employment operating procedures outline the required ratio of supervision to number of participants, which on mainstream CE projects is 1:25. As the Deputy is aware, however, in practice it can often be considerably below that. Where the number of participants exceeds 25, an assistant supervisory post can be approved. Community employment schemes in the drug rehabilitation strand have a lower participant-to-supervisor ratio due to the different nature of the clients participating on these schemes. In the case of dedicated drugs rehabilitation schemes, the standard ratio is seven drugs rehabilitation referred participants and two mainstream participants to each supervisory post. As the Deputy is aware, since becoming Minister I have ring-fenced 1,000 places for people rehabilitating from drugs and other addictions. This adjusted ratio was agreed in consultation with statutory, community and voluntary sector representatives under the nine special conditions to support the delivery of drug rehabilitation places on community employment schemes.
I have been advised that officials from the Department met representatives from the Community Lynks Project special drugs CE scheme last Thursday, 27 February, to discuss matters with regard to a particular situation that has arisen in the scheme. I have been informed that a temporary supervisory post on a six-month contract had been due for completion last Friday. However, I understand this has been extended for one month to facilitate the scheme with regard to maintaining a sufficient number of participants to warrant this post. The matter will then be reviewed. Officials from the Department of Social Production confirmed to the Community Lynks representatives that there will be no change in the number of places on the scheme, at 40 approved places. The scheme currently has just 36 participants and has been asked to review the intake of participants to ensure sustainability of take-up of places on the scheme. Furthermore, officials have advised the scheme that they will sanction approval for additional places if the sponsors show a demand for such places.
I stated that as Minister I have ring-fenced 1,000 places, but as I have discussed from time to time with Deputies Ó Snodaigh and Maureen O'Sullivan in the Chamber, for reasons I do not understand these places are not fully taken up. People appear to be willing, but perhaps the Deputy can throw light on how this can happen because the Inchicore area has a serious issue with regard to the number of people who have problems. Moreover, people in neighbouring areas also have problems, and the opportunity for rehabilitation is really important for them. The Deputy is also aware that people participating in a rehabilitation scheme are entitled to three years in community employment, and if they make a case for it the Department will allow for a fourth year in order to ensure the person is able to recover and get his or her life back in an orderly, structured way. Indeed, quite a number of people succeed in so doing and perhaps move on to further training, education or another community employment scheme. That is how matters stand at present.

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