Home > Dáil Éireann debate – Questions [Alcohol industry].

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate – Questions [Alcohol industry]. (05 Oct 2022)

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

...Deputy Thomas Gould: Recent reports about the delivery of alcohol harm awareness programmes in schools by Drinkaware, an industry-funded organisation, are concerning. This, however, is not a new issue. The Irish Community Action on Alcohol Network, ICAAN, have been raising this issue for years. Research from the Health Research Board, HRB, has found that alcohol-related harm leads to an average of three deaths in the State per day. Why has the Government not fully implemented the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 on labelling and advertising? Industry-funded bodies like Drinkaware or, in the case of gambling, the Gambling Awareness Trust, which should never have a place in State education of our children. What actions are to be taken by the Cabinet committee on health to ensure that this does not happen again and that schools have access to education programmes?

The Taoiseach: ...Deputy Gould raised the issue of Drinkaware in our schools. It is not appropriate, as I have said, that resources or materials produced or funded by the drinks industry for education and awareness on alcohol are in use in our schools. The drinks industry should not be near our schools in respect of anything to do with addiction generally. The Departments of Education and Health and the HSE will work together to ensure that this message is communicated clearly to schools. Many of the schools were entering into this area in good faith and are anxious to try to help students and young people. I do not believe that there is any deliberate bad practice here in schools, where there trying to do the best they can by their students. Of course, the idea of the social, personal and health education, SPHE, programme when it was introduced was to deal with self-esteem, self-respect and to deal with addiction issues. There is a specific module within SPHE on the use and misuse of a range of substances. The SPHE specifications are currently being redeveloped by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA. The updated curriculum will be developed for primary, junior and senior cycle. It was published for consultation on 18 July which will run until 18 October. Anyone with an interest in the area should contribute to the consultation before the deadline.

The HSE, with the support of the Department of Education and the NCCA, has produced a Healthy Choices resource for junior cycle SPHE, and unit 1 is currently available in the NCCA's online toolkit for SPHE to support teachers in addressing issues of alcohol, tobacco and drug use. The Department and the NCCA will continue to support the HSE in the development of units 2 and 3 of the programme, which are due to be published in 2023.

There are many supports there and materials from Drinkaware or from anywhere else are not needed as resources are already in place and available to schools, and that information will be communicated to them.

There is a Know the Score substance misuse programme published in 2019 for transition and fifth year pupils, which was jointly developed by the HSE, the Department of Education, and the drug and alcohol task forces. Reducing the high levels of harmful patterns of alcohol consumption among young people was one of the primary objectives of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act. We have brought in minimum unit pricing which I am sure the Deputy agrees with.

Deputy Thomas Gould: We support that.

The Taoiseach: That is good. There are also a number of other recommendations we are continuing to work on.

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