Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Question 63 - Misuse of drugs [28427/23].

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Question 63 - Misuse of drugs [28427/23]. (13 Jun 2023)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2023...

  1. Deputy Paul Donnelly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development her views on the submission to the Citizens' Assembly on Drug Use by the Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign, in particular on the role of community projects being funded to help deal with people with addiction, and the recognition of the need to address the link between drugs and poverty through a community development approach; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28427/23]


I ask the Minister of State’s views on the submissions to the Citizens' Assembly on Drug Use by the Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign, in particular on the role of community projects being funded to help deal with people with addiction, and the recognition of the need to address the link between drugs and poverty through a community development approach; and if she will make a statement on the matter.


Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development Deputy Joe O'Brien: I understand the submission from Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign to the Citizens' Assembly on Drug Use makes a number of suggestions for key areas of action, including further investment in community development responses and the need to enhance the voice of communities in tackling deprivation and its links with drug abuse.


The Deputy will appreciate that some of the actions called for in Citywide’s submission are cross-governmental and go beyond the sole remit of my Department. What is clear throughout Citywide’s submission is the call for greater engagement with local voices across all aspects of the approach to tackling drug use and its impacts, particularly in communities experiencing marginalisation and deprivation. It is well established at this stage that drug use and its consequences impact more heavily on communities experiencing poverty.


I acknowledge the spirit of the submission: that the voices of those who know the consequences, who experience the impacts and who see the problems in their communities every day must be brought to the forefront of any conversation on tackling challenges relating to drugs use. We have seen the effects on communities when people are deprived of a voice. No one knows better what the specific challenges facing a community are than the people who live in it.


There is always more to be done, but my Department is proactive in progressing the sort of community development approach being called for in Citywide’s submission to the citizens' assembly.


Work is ongoing across a number of programmes and initiatives in my Department to provide supports and empowerment to communities experiencing poverty and deprivation, including the social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP, the place-based leadership programme, the community development pilot programme and the empowering communities programme. In recognition of its community development approach, my Department also provides funding to the Citywide Drug Crisis Campaign.


My officials also have regular engagement with the Department of Health regarding the national drugs strategy. My Department is represented on strategic implementation group 4, which comprises sectoral, agency and departmental officials.


The national drugs strategy is relevant to my Department's work in the community and voluntary sectors as it is vital in ensuring the collective input of the statutory, community and voluntary sectors, in order to provide a co-ordinated response to drug and alcohol use in Irish society.


Deputy Paul Donnelly: There is a broad welcome for funding to Citywide and it being brought into the Department of Rural and Community Development and away from the HSE and the national drugs strategy. I have been involved in community development-based drug projects for over 25 years in Dublin 15. I am very proud of the work we have done in supporting individuals, families and communities in tackling the scourge of problematic drug misuse. The unique strength of our community drug projects is that they deliver an integrated approach to service delivery based on the understanding that people’s drug-related problems cannot be addressed in isolation from the wider issues that are impacting on their lives. The Minister of State has acknowledged that. It is very important that there is strong cross-governmental response. I urge the Minister of State to continue to engage with other agencies, particularly the HSE and the national drug strategy team on supports for the community and ensuring that their voices are heard.


Deputy Joe O'Brien: I will flesh out a little my Department’s responsibilities on the national drug strategy. My Department has two main goals within the strategy, both of which are implemented under SICAP. These are to provide supports, including homework clubs, additional tuition and career guidance counselling and to support community awareness of drugs programmes and youth work in collaboration with schools and other youth programmes and second, to use SICAP to improve the life chances and opportunities of those that are marginalised in society, living in poverty or unemployment through community-development approaches, targeted supports and inter agency collaboration.


In the spirit of cross-departmental collaboration, it is worth mentioning something under my remit in the Department of Social Protection, namely, the community employment, CE, drugs rehabilitation schemes. We have about 840 participants on these schemes across the country. I was in Kildare town and Athy a couple of weeks ago and visited two of the schemes there, with the DARA project in Kildare. I would recommend that all Deputies visit their CE drugs rehabilitation scheme. Amazing work is being done there at a community level to bring people back from not being in a good place in addiction.


Deputy Paul Donnelly: I agree that it is important that every Deputy would visit his or her community drug team, particularly those which have a local management team or board. That is the essence of community development. It is the local community giving a local response and being able to effectively deal with the problem as it arises in its community. The lesson we have learned over the past 30 years since the local drugs forces were established is that each area is unique and that is why it is so important that communities are supported through a community development approach and that their voices are heard, and not only heard but acted on. There has been a very poor response from many Departments over the past ten years in particular when it comes to the voices of the communities being heard. Citywide has been very strong on this. I welcome that there has been funding for Citywide but we need to move on and get the communities back at the heart of dealing with problematic drug use.


Deputy Joe O'Brien: I also want to mention the role of drug task forces. Local and regional drug and alcohol task forces implement the national drug strategy in the context of the needs of their local areas. The strategy is implemented through action plans that have identified existing and emerging gaps in supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research. In my own area, I would mention the North Dublin Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force. I am doing a piece of work with it now that in some respects is pushing the community development approach out too. It is about creating opportunities for young people to protect them from the risks. Much of that is about getting them involved in the community and in mainstream community organisations. It is a protective measure. It came about following the Planet Youth research that has been conducted in several areas around the country. It came across very strongly that a really important protective measure for young people is to actually get them involved in the development of their community in the long term. That is an approach that can be copied around the country.

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