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British Irish Council. (2021) Ministerial meeting of the misuse of substances work sector: communique. British Irish Council.

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Frank Feighan TD, Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, has welcomed British Irish Council (BIC) ministerial agreement to cooperate on policy initiatives to reduce the harms of drug and alcohol use. This follows a meeting chaired by Minister Feighan of ministers responsible for drug and alcohol issues from the eight BIC member administrations, including Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, UK, Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey.

 

Minister Feighan said:

"BIC is an important forum for ministers to discuss and cooperate on responses to problem drug and alcohol use. Drugs and alcohol affect individuals and communities across Britain and Ireland, including ill-health, pre-mature deaths, damaged family and social relations, and drug-related violence and intimidation. These issues are challenging for BIC administrations to tackle alone. By working together, we can share learning on evidence-based policies, services and interventions to reduce drug and alcohol harms."

 

BIC ministers agreed to cooperate on five policy initiatives to address the harms of drugs and alcohol use over the next three years. These include the delivery of drug and alcohol services during COVID-19, the reduction of drug related deaths, financial mechanisms to reduce alcohol-related harms, and joined up approaches to meeting the health and social needs of people who are homeless and in addiction. The Ministers also agreed to consider the role of the voluntary and community sector in drug and alcohol policies and service provision.

 

Minister Feighan said:

"This is an especially challenging time for people with problem drug and alcohol use due to COVID-19. It has reinforced the need to treat drug and alcohol use as a public health issue. We have seen important innovations in the provision of drug and alcohol services across Britain and Ireland in the last year. The BIC structure will facilitate us to take stock of these innovations and to consolidate the learnings for policy.

 

"I particularly welcome the engagement by BIC with the voluntary and community sector. This sector plays a crucial role in delivering drug and alcohol services in communities across Ireland and Britain, often working with very vulnerable groups. By working with this sector, we can strengthen the voice for service users in the design and delivery of drug and alcohol services."

 

Notes

The British Irish Council (BIC) was established under the Agreement reached in the Multi-Party Negotiation in Belfast on Good Friday 1998. It is a forum for its eight Member Administrations to exchange information, discuss, consult, and use best endeavours to reach agreement on co-operation on policy areas of mutual interest. The BIC drugs and alcohol work sector is chaired by the Irish Government and meets up to three times a year at official level and every two years at ministerial level.

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