Home > Dáil Éireann debate - Financial Resolution No. 4: General (resumed), vol. 1043 no. 6.

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate - Financial Resolution No. 4: General (resumed), vol. 1043 no. 6. (11 Oct 2023)

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

...Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): I am pleased to share details of the Department's budget 2024 allocations in the area for which I am responsible as Minister of State with responsibility for public health well-being and the national drugs strategy. As Deputies are aware, ensuring that people are healthy and active and that they get the healthcare they need is a priority for this Government. A key element of this approach is our healthy Ireland framework, at the core of which is the healthy Ireland fund. Established in 2017 with an initial annual budget of €5 million, the fund is used to support our partners, including include Departments and agencies, NGOs, community organisations and 31 local authorities, in delivering programmes focused on health and well-being. Mindful of the importance of this measure, we have gradually increased investment in this fund over the years since it was established. Our budget for the fund in 2023 was just over €14 million. I am delighted to announce today that I secured an additional €2.3 million for 2024, bringing the total to €16.5 million. That represents an increase of 16%. This money will be used to progress a number of priorities, including the employment of staff to co-ordinate activities, to support the Sláintecare healthy communities programme that provides targeted supports to some of the most deprived communities in the country and to help to facilitate exercise for older adults and others who may be living with chronic conditions. I have also secured an additional €300,000 to facilitate the recruitment of four community food and nutrition workers. This will bring the national complement to 19. These workers are a vital support to local communities in developing responses to food poverty and insecurity.

I am particularly pleased to also announce that I have secured funding to develop new walking trails in communities, building on the success of the GAA walking trails initiative I announced earlier in the year. I have also secured funding to develop facilities for outdoor swimming. Some €1 million will be provided for these initiatives.

On tobacco control, great strides have been made with the percentage of the population that smokes falling from 23% in 2015 to 18% in 2022. Approximately 22,000 people are expected to engage with the HSE anti-smoking services in 2024. Of these, one quarter will require medical intervention and supports. A total of €1.82 million is provided to assist these people to kick the habit.

Moving to sexual health, Members may be aware that work is ongoing in developing a new national sexual health strategy. As part of this we will increase the budget for free home sexually transmitted infection testing by €700,000, allowing people to test in the privacy of their own homes. Some 91,000 testing kits were provided last year. This valuable initiative will expand over the course of 2024. We will also increase funding for our national HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis programme, PrEP, launched in November 2019. It currently receives funding of €5.4 million and our investment of €600,000 will fund additional staff and increase access to PrEP medication, helping to provide better access to HIV prevention for more people.

As part of our response to tackling gambling addiction, €500,000 will be provided in 2024 to develop supports for the estimated 130,000 people with problems in this area. Since my appointment to the Department of Health just nine months ago, I have met with medical experts, people delivering addiction services on the ground and people who use drugs, some of whom are living with addiction. A key message I received is that we need to change how we think about and tackle drug misuse and addiction. This year, I have already ensured that core funding for our drug and alcohol task forces and section 39 organisations increased by €3.5 million. In addition,I provided €1.5 million in funding for a drug and alcohol education and awareness programme. This is the first time such funding has been provided. For 2024, we will deliver ground-breaking services never before provided. These will include dual diagnosis hubs that will support the recovery of young people with drug dependency and mental health issues and dedicated funding for services for people who embark on the road to recovery from drug addiction to support their integration into everyday life, for example, through housing and employment, education and other supports. It is important to note that in the past two years alone, funding for our drug and alcohol services has increased by almost €10 million. I am keen that we will continue to build on this in order to ensure that the fantastic care which is provided from within the community is supported. In total next year, the State will invest in excess of €145 million on drug and alcohol addiction services...

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