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Written Answers. - National Drugs Strategy.

Tuesday, 3 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 4

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 106. Mr. Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  the progress which has been made in the national drugs strategy dealing with young people drug-taking and in view of the drug-taking in St. Patrick's Institution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24532/02]

 110. Mr. Coveney Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  the changes he plans to make to the national drugs strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24530/02]

 111. Mr. Quinn Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  the progress made to date in implementing the new national drugs strategy launched in May 2001. [24468/02]

 116. 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 effectiveness of the overall national drug strategy in consideration of the drug culture operating in Irish prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24529/02]

[996]

 126. Mr. Connaughton Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  the changes he plans to make to the national drugs strategy in view of the fact that there are now 300 people sleeping rough in Dublin every night and the fact that drug misuse and homelessness is interdependent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24531/02]

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. 106, 111, 116 and 126 together.

As the Deputies are aware, my Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008. The strategy aims to tackle the drug problem in the most comprehensive way ever undertaken in this country and contains 100 individual actions, under the four pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research, to be implemented by a range of Departments and agencies.

The strategy provides for an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the overall framework by end 2004. This will examine the progress being made in achieving the overall key strategic goals set out in the strategy and will enable priorities for further action to be identified and a re-focusing of the strategy, if necessary.

Since it was launched in May 2001, considerable progress has been made by Departments and agencies in implementing the actions set out for them in the strategy. The interdepartmental group on drugs, IDG, which I chair, meets regularly to assess progress by Departments and agencies in achieving the targets set for them and any obstacles to the implementation of any of the actions are brought to light at these meetings.

Six monthly progress reports on the strategy are provided to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion, the most recent of which was presented in September last. In terms of progress, it should be noted that the Department of Education and Science, which is now represented on nearly all local drugs task forces, is recruiting extra support staff to enable the delivery of substance misuse prevention programme in all schools in the next three years. Schools in the LDTF areas will be prioritised in this context; guidelines to assist schools in the development of a drugs policy have also been developed and were issued to all primary and post primary schools in May 2002; a joint substance use policy committee – from the Departments of Health and Children and Education and Science – has also been convened and is, at present, addressing the supports needed to assist in the implementation of the guidelines by schools; the Department of Health and Children has established a cross-sectoral committee to develop an ongoing national awareness campaign. This campaign which is due to be launched early in 2003, will target a number of groups, including young people; in addition, the Department chairs a group tasked with the development of a protocol for the treatment of under 18's and [997] good progress is being made in this area; and the report of the benzodiazepine working group was published today. The Department of Health and Children will be overseeing the implementation of its recommendations.

Considerable progress is also being made as regards increasing the number of methadone treatment places. The number of places at the end of September was 6,290 and there is a commitment in the strategy to increase that number to 6,500 by the end of this year.

Regarding the national advisory committee on drugs, it is currently overseeing a three year research programme, on the extent, nature, causes and effects of drug use in Ireland and has made considerable progress in this regard. With regard to the actions in the strategy relevant to the NACD, Deputies should note that discussions are on-going with the relevant groups regarding research on drug use amongst the homeless and traveller populations, both of whom were identified in the strategy as being at risk of drug misuse. In addition, a longitudinal study on treatment outcomes commenced last month and a review of the harm reduction mechanisms for injecting drug users in an Irish context will get under way in the coming months.

In relation to the regional drugs task forces, nominations have been sought from the various sectors, including statutory, community and voluntary. In addition, the national drugs strategy team has prepared guidelines on their operation in consultation the relevant sectors and agencies. It is planned to hold the first meetings of the RDTFs early in the new year.

Finally, Deputies should note that I am not in a position to answer questions in relation to the Prisons Service or drug taking in St. Patrick's Institution as these are matters for my colleagues the Ministers for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, while matters relating to homelessness are the responsibility of the Minister for Environment and Local Government.


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