Home > Dail Eireann debate. Financial Resolution No. 7: general (resumed).

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Financial Resolution No. 7: general (resumed). (14 Oct 2020)

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

Deputy Thomas Pringle: My initial disappointment in budget 2021 has not lifted. Instead, it has deepened as I have reviewed the relevant documentation and commentaries about the Groundhog Day feel to some of the Government's announcements. It is disingenuous for Ministers to stand up in front of us, the media and the public and make statements about investment, improvements and measures that have been previously announced.


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Due to the lack of transparency in how the budget is delivered, I have received many queries from groups and organisations. The national community action on alcohol project, for example, has said “with alcohol consumption increasing since the imposition of social restrictions in March, it's crucially important that communities are supported to reduce and prevent alcohol harm as Ireland recovers." They have asked when the available funding will be provided to enable delivery of community action on alcohol, and if it is separate to the additional funding announced last year.


Goal 4 of the 2017 national drug and alcohol strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery, is to support participation of individuals, families and communities. Action 1.1.1 of this goal explicitly commits to promoting the use of evidence-based approaches to mobilising community action on alcohol. It all sounds very good. The €250,000 multiannual funding, which was announced in early 2019 by the then Minister of State, Catherine Byrne, was never released for this work. Actions speak louder than words and the Minister's word means nothing to many at this stage.


Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Frankie Feighan): I welcome the opportunity to update the House on the opportunities that budget 2021 will provide for the improvement of health and well-being for our citizens. I would like to acknowledge the support of the Minister for Health, Deputy Donnelly, and my fellow Ministers of State, Deputies Butler and Rabbitte, in securing additional resources for health in particular for services for those who need them most.


As stated in our programme for Government, the State has a role to play in promoting good physical and mental health. For each individual, a healthy lifestyle is a key foundation for a better quality of life and reducing the risks from both infectious and chronic disease. The pandemic has put public health and well-being centre stage, and this is now more vital than ever, as we adapt to living with Covid-19.


Some €20 million funding has been secured for health and well-being initiatives in budget 2021, providing us with more opportunities to build on the excellent progress made so far through the Healthy Ireland framework, in supporting us all to live longer and better lives, and helping to reduce the burdens on health and social care services.


The investment secured in budget 2021 will enable us to continue and expand on this work, which has a particular focus on prioritising area-based disadvantaged populations. Our key aims in this area are as follows: to empower people to take responsibility for their own health, and support individuals and communities to live healthier lives; to support both national and local developments through targeted health and well-being initiative; and the continued Implementation of the key national strategies and action plans on obesity, physical activity, smoking and alcohol misuse.


Some €16 million of this funding will support a range of health and well-being projects such as targeted initiatives to address prevention and health inequalities, integrated alcohol services, community-based and digital services, social prescribing, childhood and adolescent obesity prevention and treatment model, and smoking cessation. It will expand implementation nationally of Making Every Contact Count which provides online training and enhanced support. It will also fund the physical activity and patient pathway model, warmth and well-being programme, prevention and early intervention for children, healthy childhood programme and data and library services to support health and well-being initiatives.


A further €4 million will enhance the existing Healthy Ireland fund, which is used to enable our partners and stakeholders to provide grassroots health and well-being projects in communities.


I welcome the 50 cent increase in the price of a packet of cigarettes, with a pro rata increase on other tobacco products, announced in yesterday's budget. I also welcome the allocation of €21 million for new developments relating to my brief on drugs policy and inclusion health. Some €10 million of this is for the national drug strategy and €11 million for homelessness linked to Covid-19. This funding will enable us both to meet the immediate challenges of Covid-19, and to meet the need for long-term solutions to underlying health challenges. The funding I am providing will make a lasting difference in the lives of socially excluded groups.


Addressing the challenges of drug and alcohol misuse is a key factor in improving public health. The Government roadmap for a health-led approach to drug and alcohol misuse is the national drugs strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery, co-ordinated by the Department of Health. We are now at the mid-point in the strategy and shortly we will set out new actions for its remaining four years.


The Government has prioritised support for families and individuals facing homelessness. A common challenge facing homeless people is health, including addiction and mental health. Some €4 million will be allocated to new developments to address the addiction and other health needs of homeless people.


I am happy to announce €2 million to enhance access to health services for socially excluded groups, including the Roma and Traveller communities, asylum seekers and refugees living in direct provision. Victims of domestic violence and the LGBTI community will also benefit from initiatives provided through this funding

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