Home > Dail Eireann topical issue debate - Drug and alcohol task forces.

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann topical issue debate - Drug and alcohol task forces. (05 Dec 2017)

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

Deputy John Lahart: I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, for attending. Both Deputy Crowe and I were asked to raise this issue by Tallaght Drug & Alcohol Task Force. The Minister of State will be aware that considerable resources, although not all that were promised, have been channelled into Dublin's north inner city, a project championed by the former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny. As Fianna Fáil's Dublin spokesperson, I welcomed this initiative. What I disliked about it, however, was how the Government isolated its approach to supporting vulnerable communities to Dublin's north inner city. As the Minister of State knows, the most disadvantaged communities in Ireland, in spite of what Rural Independent Deputies might claim, remain in the capital city.


The cuts in recent years have had a huge impact on the provision of front-line support in the areas most affected by problem drug and alcohol use. I represent one such area, Tallaght. The role of Tallaght Drug & Alcohol Task Force in providing supports through projects and initiatives is essential. The effects of the cuts are not limited to, but have involved, the full removal of services in some cases; reductions in opening times of essential services; reduced staffing, with a resultant reduction in the quality of services; and pauses to pay increments for staff. The staff have endured these pauses since 2008. With the recent public pay restoration, projects are now experiencing a loss of essential staff to public bodies where pay and conditions are now far better than in our projects. There are rising costs in other areas, including insurance, and these issues must also be raised. An increase in drug-related deaths and suicides has been documented. The task forces lack the resources to deal with this. We are into December but there is still no allocation confirmed for task forces in the budget for 2018. If it were any other business, the staff would be put on protective notice at this stage. Compliance visits were carried out in January of this year but the task force is still awaiting the report ten months later. These are just a few issues that I am able to raise in my two minutes. Deputy Crowe will address more.


Deputy Seán Crowe: We want to talk about the task force. It might surprise some of the Minister of State's Cabinet colleagues but it should not surprise him that, in parts of my constituency, there is open drug dealing. There is an increase in the number of drug deaths and the rate of intimidation. Families are being intimidated in the area. There are children acting as drug runners and they are destroying the hope and potential of a whole generation. There are people fleeing their homes and becoming homeless because of intimidation. It probably would not surprise the Minister of State that I am aware of eight-year-olds presenting at services with an addiction problem. I am not referring to an alcohol addiction but to an addiction to cocaine or another such substance. That is the background.


If the Minister of State went to my constituency, he would see that there are posters up referring to Crimestoppers. The organisation encourages people to telephone in if they see drug dealing in the area. The campaign has been successful. The Garda is saying it has already had some successes with it but the difficulty is that, with the posters going up, people's expectations rise. The Garda tells me it does not have the resources to follow up on many of the reports of open drug dealing.


There is currently no superintendent. There are two uniformed inspectors and one plain-clothes inspector. There used to be five. We are short of nine sergeants. We have a reduced drug squad and a reduced number of gardaí in the area. Robbed cars can be seen in the constituency again. We believed this was a thing of the past.


With regard to the drugs task force, who is sitting at the table?


Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Finian McGrath): I will be taking this matter on behalf of Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne. I thank Deputies Lahart and Crowe for raising the important issue of funding and governance requirements in regard to the Tallaght Drug & Alcohol Task Force.

Local and regional drug and alcohol task forces play an important role in the development of drugs initiatives at local level to provide a targeted response to the problem of substance misuse in local communities. I can assure the Deputies that every effort has been made to protect the budgets of drug and alcohol task forces in recent years. The overall allocation to local drug and alcohol task forces for community-based drugs initiatives from the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive in 2017 was €27.65 million. The Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, is committed to ensuring that funding at this level is maintained in 2018 and to providing new opportunities for task forces to contribute to tackling the drug problem in the years ahead.


In July this year, the Taoiseach, together with the Minister of State, launched Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery: A health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland. This document sets out the Government's strategy to address the harm caused by substance misuse in our society up to 2025. The vision of the strategy is to create a healthier and safer Ireland. In recent days we have all heard about the horrific killings. The country is not a safe place to be for many involved or indirectly involved, or people being abused owing to the drugs issue. Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery emphasises a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland that is based on providing safe person-centred services that promote rehabilitation and recovery.


A key element of the strategy is the introduction of a performance-measurement system for drug and alcohol task forces. The aim of the system is to help the Government assess whether drugs initiatives, including measures developed by task forces, are leading to an improvement in problem substance use across the country. The system also incorporates a resource allocation model to enable funding to be allocated on a more equitable and rational basis that takes account of underlying need in areas covered by the task forces and targets those communities that face a higher risk of substance misuse.


The Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, is well aware that a significant amount of work needs to be done in consultation with relevant stakeholders and sectors, including the task forces, to bring the performance measurement system into operation. Building the capacity of task forces to participate in the performance measurement system will be a key factor in the overall success of the framework......


[For the full debate, click on this link]


See also


321. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health if additional funding will be made available under the national drugs strategy to a group (details supplied) in order to allow its worker operate for four days per week rather than two days per week which is currently funded; his views on the particular challenges being faced by this group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51524/17]


Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Catherine Byrne): Drug and Alcohol Task Forces play a key role in assessing the extent and nature of the drug problem in their areas and in coordinating action at local level, so that there is a targeted response to the problem of substance misuse in local communities. Every effort has been made to protect the budgets of Drug and Alcohol Task Forces in recent years. In excess of €27.6m has been allocated to Task Forces by the HSE and the Department of Health for community-based drugs initiatives this year. This level of funding is consistent with the amounts provided in 2014, 2015 and 2016.


The Department of Health and the HSE will be issuing letters to Drug and Alcohol Task Forces in the coming days to notify them of their 2018 funding allocations. There is an onus on Task Forces to ensure that their budgets are effectively deployed to address current priorities and locally identified needs. It is a matter for Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force to consider the case made by Fettercairn Estate Management Committee in the context framing its 2018 priorities.

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