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 Header Item Education and Training Provision (Continued)
 Header Item Addiction Treatment Services

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 879 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English] Last year SOLAS published its five-year strategy for the development of a unified further education and training sector. The strategy seeks to implement a new integrated FET planning model to ensure relevant learner-centred, flexible and employment-led provision with a clear focus on reducing duplication and overlap of provision. The process is to take account of Government priorities, for example, Pathways to Work, the Action Plan for Jobs and the Youth Guarantee.

SOLAS engages in an annual service plan process with ETBs which places a focus on the relevance and appropriateness of the provision proposed. It is expected that this will result in an improved level of provision that is responsive to the needs of learners and employers and ensure better value for money for our limited resources. Under the legislation providing for the establishment of ETBs, ETBs are independent autonomous entities with resources to deliver educational and training opportunities within their regions to the highest standard. Limerick and Clare ETB is a statutory body with responsibility for education and training provision in the Limerick and Clare area. The ETB has 1,418 approved PLC places and the allocation of these places to schools and colleges under its remit is a matter for the ETB.

A PLC programme with 83 PLC places operated in St Michael's College in Cappamore for a number of years. This school amalgamated with two other schools - St Fintan's Christian Brothers school and St Joseph's Mercy secondary school in Doon - in September 2013 and St Michael's College, Cappamore ceased to operate as a school. This resulted in the PLC places previously allocated by the ETB to St Michael's College being re-allocated to Limerick College of Further Education. The ETB continued to operate the PLC programme in the former school premises in Cappamore as an outreach of Limerick College of Further Education. The ETB recently reviewed the PLC provision in Cappamore and decided that because there was duplication of the courses on offer in both centres and it was proving difficult to operate with such small numbers, it would withdraw the PLC programme from Cappamore and provide it in Limerick College of Further Education. I understand that discussions continue on this locally. The ETB will continue to offer part-time courses in Cappamore and intends to develop a new suite of programmes for learners in this centre. I believe it intends to use the centre in Cappamore as an education and training centre for learners, offering programmes at levels 3 and 4 on the QQI framework, and that it is not just working closely with my Department and SOLAS but is also working closely with the Department of Social Protection to provide courses for unemployed people in the area.

Deputy Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell I thank the Minister for State for taking this debate. I have also raised the matter with the Minister for Education and Skills. I have a number of points to make. The 83 PLC places were allocated within a rural remit, not an urban remit. I know that if these 83 PLC places are transferred to a city setting, many students will not be able to avail of PLC places and may not be able to go on to further education. That is something we cannot allow to happen. The role of an ETB should be inclusive, encompassing both urban and rural. ETBs do fantastic work in the city and county. I want to speak specifically about the college of further education in Cappamore. These places were allocated under a specific rural remit. Cappamore was established as, effectively, a rural element of Limerick College of Further Education in Mulgrave Street.

The Minister of State spoke about offering programmes at levels 3 and 4 on the QQI framework. The PLC courses across a range of areas that are currently on offer in Cappamore are levels 5 and 6. Many of these students have gone on to the University of Limerick and Limerick Institute of Technology. This is something we want here. There is no reason why level 3 and 4 courses cannot be offered on the same campus that offers level 5 and 6 courses. It is something that needs to be maintained. I want a commitment from the Minister of State and the Minister that they will contact the ETB in Limerick and get an update about how the review process is going and stress that the 83 PLC places are allocated under a rural remit. I want a commitment that future plans will involve retaining the PLC level 5 and 6 courses, introducing level 3 and 4 courses and enhancing those courses. There is a state-of-the-art college in Cappamore with 210 places available on a three and a half acre site. It would be seen as an integrated model with a rising tide lifting all boats. The Minister of State might confirm that these matters will be followed up.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I can raise these issues with SOLAS and the ETB. We met with them recently and they are doing great work in the area referred to. It is about striking the right balance. As it is an independent autonomous entity, we cannot direct it in any way but it knows it has certain responsibilities. It works very closely with SOLAS on an annual basis in respect of the service plan and our overall strategy, which involves making sure that as many people as possible can avail of these courses. We recognise that PLC courses are a very important avenue into working with community bodies or enterprise. Most people who do a PLC course move on to further education or a job, so it is very successful. With that in mind, part of the SOLAS strategy is to commit to evaluating all further education provision this year, mainly the PLC programme. It is being looked at in a national context and we are also looking at barriers. The Deputy raised the issue of rural versus the city and access and whether there will be additional hardship in trying to attend courses in the city. That will be looked at. I will raise it with the ETB and SOLAS.

Deputy Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell It is a matter of striking the right balance.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English We need to get the balance right. The Deputy will appreciate that the ETB is an independent entity, but I will raise his concerns with them.

Addiction Treatment Services

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan I wish I was not addressing this issue, but I am very happy it was chosen and that I have the opportunity to highlight two programmes working with those in alcohol recovery whose funding is being cut. Barrymore House will be temporarily closed for the month of June. It is the only residential treatment programme for problem drinkers and gamblers in the north eastern HSE region. Áit Linn has 74 active clients, which means that 74 families are being supported through the programme there. Referrals come from the individuals concerned, their families and communities, social workers, nurses, doctors, the GPs in the area and Beaumont Hospital and the Mater hospital.

These programmes offer 12 weeks of psycho-educational sessions which look at the health and psychological effects of alcohol misuse. They also look at the triggers for relapse during that period. The clients go into a treatment group for a minimum of 26 weeks. In the course of those 26 weeks, they help people to adjust to abstaining from alcohol and the pressures of being abstinent. They also offer couples therapy and family therapy. Social workers may be involved in cases if there are issues of institutional, domestic or sexual abuse. A further 26 weeks of aftercare are offered. During the aftercare period, a lot of work is done re-establishing the client within the family. They work on employment and education and also support people as challenges arise. Individual and group counselling is also offered.

All of this proves that the cycle of addiction can be broken and that those in recovery can heal and transform their lives. In my opinion, which I am sure is shared by the Minister for Health, we have reason to expand that kind of service and not to cut it. The centres also have a waiting list, but people on it will be supported through motivational interviewing and client-centred counselling; therefore, there is a link with people while they are waiting to go on the programme. There were 180 referrals in 2014. They run a weekly walk-in clinic in Beaumont Hospital in conjunction with liaison psychiatry there. It is a brief intervention clinic. Áit Linn is seeing a significant take up of places on its programmes from people who have presented at Beaumont Hospital and the Mater hospital with alcohol-related issues. They provide training on alcohol misuse to Dublin City Council's social work team to use with council tenants who have tenancy issues relating to alcohol misuse. They have held conferences and were involved in the Strengthening Families programme for parenting in 2014. They also provide support and training for organisations who work with the homeless like the Simon Community. They also constantly review and evaluate their programmes.

We know that there is an escalating tide of alcohol-related physical and mental harm. Here are two programmes that are trying to address that issue.

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