Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Other questions - Drugs strategy [Community].

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Other questions - Drugs strategy [Community]. (23 Feb 2023)

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

10. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the role her Department is taking in the implementation of the national drugs strategy. [9262/23]

An Cathaoirleach Gníomhach (Deputy Joe Carey): Question No. 10 is in the name of Deputy Thomas Gould. Deputy Paul Donnelly will ask the question on the Deputy's behalf.

Deputy Paul Donnelly: Will the Ministers outline the Department's role in the implementation of the national drugs strategy?

Deputy Joe O'Brien: My officials have regular engagement with the Department of Health regarding the national drugs strategy. My Department is represented on the strategic implementation group 4, SIG 4, reducing harm and supporting recovery. This group comprises sectoral, agency and departmental officials.

The Department has two main goals in the strategy. These relate to providing community supports in collaboration with schools and other youth programmes and improving the life chances of those who are marginalised in society. The Department will continue to assist with the important work of the national drugs strategy in the future.

Deputy Paul Donnelly: As the Minister of State knows, I have been involved in the local drugs task force since the beginning, back in the late 1990s. The role of community representatives on the task force is critical. I know this has become a huge challenge for the community in recent years. There has also been something of a pushback from certain Departments against community involvement. Basic respect for the community is needed, with its experience, expertise, knowledge and commitment to driving the national drugs strategy. Since the Department is on that task force, I ask the Minister of State to ensure that every support is given to the representatives of the community. I do not think it is. There are small improvements but much more work needs to be done to get us back to where we were at the beginning, when we felt there was a real sense of purpose for everybody sitting down and working together to try to deal with the difficulties of drug use in our communities.

Deputy Joe O'Brien: I am aware that some drugs task forces, which do not sit fully in our Department, have vacancies in the community seats. It is vitally important that the community perspective is represented on the drugs task forces. The community side is particularly important because community engagement can play a huge preventative role in stopping people from falling in the wrong direction. It also plays a big role in recovery and offering people pathways out of the situation they are in. We have supported a couple of projects on a pilot basis. The pilot street outreach workers in Killinarden have been extremely effective. The Minister, Deputy Humphreys, met them a couple of months ago. They have intervened at a street level and an individual level. We are not taking all that on. We are just doing that via SICAP to show what can be done and good practice too. I will say a little more about the task force in my second supplementary answer.

Deputy Paul Donnelly: This is deeply worrying in the community. Over the past couple of years, I have attended a number of meetings with Citywide and community representatives on the respect that people are not getting in the interaction with and implementation of the national drugs strategy. I commend the Citywide drugs crisis campaign. I know a call has gone out for participants in the provision of level 5 training for community representatives on local drugs task forces. That is a really good move. I encourage anybody who has an interest in that and wants to help, support and get involved in that to contact Citywide and do its course. It will be over a 12-week period for one morning per week. The objectives of the course are really important and will help to strengthen drugs task forces and the voice of the community in those task forces. I hope that permeates right up to the very top, including the national drugs strategy implementation group, which is extremely important.

Deputy Joe O'Brien: I encourage community representative involvement in the task forces. I mentioned this earlier but I think it is relevant to what the Deputy is describing now too. The values and principles document is for every level of government too. It is agreed at a national level but it is relevant here too. That is an agreed document for engagement between the statutory, community and voluntary sector. It could be put on the table in the situations the Deputy describes.

Our role at a national level is often about joining the dots. With SICAP in particular, we have a good overview of the various services in a community. I have been talking to my officials about this and, at a national level, this is what we do to make sure everyone at the table is aware of the various options available to them in the battle against the damage that drugs are doing to communities. While it is in another Department, I have to mention the community employment drugs rehabilitation scheme, because the work it is doing is amazing across the country. I wanted to give it a mention because I have seen what it does and it is amazing.

Vol. 1034 No. 2

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