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Written Answers. - Local Drugs Task Forces.

Tuesday, 3 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 4

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 84. Mr. Noonan Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  the actions being undertaken to tackle the level of social disadvantage in the local drug task force areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24535/02]

[982]

 92. Mr. O'Dowd Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  the action he proposes to take to tackle the level of social disadvantage in the local drug task force areas in view of the cutbacks in his Department's budget for 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24512/02]

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Éamon Ó Cuív): Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 and 92 together.

Problem drug use remains a major public policy issue in Ireland and the Government is firmly committed to addressing this most serious and complex issue. Drugs policy continues to be positioned within the context of wider social inclusion policies and a strong commitment by Government to areas of social and economic disadvantage. While a range of Departments and agencies have responsibilities in the area of social inclusion, my Department oversees a number of initiatives in this area.

The local drugs task forces were established in 1997 in the areas experiencing the worst levels of drug misuse, particularly heroin. Currently, there are 14 such forces – 12 in Dublin, one in Cork and one in Bray which was designated an LDTF area in 2000.

The role of the LDTFs is to prepare local action plans which include a range of measures in relation to treatment, rehabilitation, education, prevention and curbing local supply. In addition, the LDTFs provide a mechanism for the co-ordination of services in these areas, while at the same time allowing local communities and voluntary organisations to participate in the planning, design and delivery of those services. They are designed to complement and add value to the extensive range of interventions being delivered through the State agencies.

All the LDTFs, with the exception of Bray, are currently implementing their second round of action plans and, to date, over €14.2 million has been allocated. In total, the Government has allocated over €51 million to implement the projects contained in the plans of the task forces since 1997.

The Deputies should note that in addition to the moneys available under the action plans, €12.7 million was provided under the premises initiative which is designed to meet the accommodation needs of community based drugs projects, the majority of which are in LDTF areas. To date, over €11 million has been allocated to projects under this initiative.

While the overall level of funding available to my Department in 2003 is down, I am very happy to report that there is an increase of 16% in the moneys available for drugs work for 2003. The increase in expenditure for next year clearly reflects the Government's ongoing commitment to addressing the problem, particularly in areas where heroin misuse is most prevalent.

The Deputies should also note that the young peoples facilities and services fund also operates in the LDTF areas. The main aim of the fund is to attract “at risk” young people in disadvantaged areas into recreational facilities and [983] activities and divert them away from the dangers of substance abuse. An amount of approximately €59 million has been allocated to date under the first round of funding to LDTF areas.

As the Deputies will also be aware, the LDTF areas are co-terminus with partnership areas. The partnerships are responsible for delivering the local development social inclusion programme at local level in their areas. The programme encompasses three main measures, i.e. services for the unemployed, community development, and community based youth initiatives.

Under the services to the unemployed measure, the partnerships target measures that address the long-term unemployed and those most distanced from the labour market. This is done through specifically focused services – including pro-active targeting and outreach – to marginalised groups who require intensive support and interventions. Individuals are also supported to become self-employed through education, training, work experience and job placement.

The community development measure aims to enhance the capacity of the people living in the disadvantaged area to participate in the development of their areas. It also provides support for small scale-improvements to the local environmental and community infrastructures. Through community based youth initiatives, measures to contribute to the development of young people who have left school early or are at risk of becoming involved in criminal activity and other forms of anti-social behaviour are put in place. Community based education and youth development opportunities are also made available in areas of disadvantage.

While there is a reduction of approximately 6% in the allocation for this programme in 2003, ADM are actively working with the partnerships and community groups to minimise the impact of the cuts on the provision of services next year.

Finally, as Deputies will be aware, all LDTF areas contain areas identified under Strand One of the RAPID programme. The programme is a focused initiative by Government to target the most concentrated areas of disadvantage in the country. Priority attention is given under the programme to tackling the spatial concentration of poverty and social exclusion within the designated areas through front-loading State resources, available under the national development plan. The programme also calls on Government Departments and State agencies to bring about better co-ordination and closer integration in the delivery of services. Proposals in the RAPID plans are currently being progressed by Departments.

Question No. 85 answered with Question No. 83.[984]


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