Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Drug and Alcohol Services, and Homelessness): Statements
I will try and be as brief as possible because I want to try and get in a couple of answers from the Minister of State.
During the past year, the most vulnerable group has been the older cohort of drug misusers. In the initial stages, many of the services were closed and some of the workers were seconded to the HSE to deal with other front-line work that needed to be done. Many of them are back, but some of the services have not reopened as drop-in services and they are working through Zoom etc. Obviously, it leaves this group extremely vulnerable.
Between 2012 and 2018, the number of drug overdose deaths among the 50 plus age group increased by 75%. This problem is increasingly associated with older long-term drug users. In the past 12 months, that aging cohort has been more isolated and increasingly vulnerable. As it is clear that they will remain extremely vulnerable, are there any plans for a surge in funding for community-based projects on top of their current funding?
In relation to the broader aspect of the drug and alcohol task forces, I was a member of a drug and alcohol task force for a good number of years on several occasions and I found in the last term I served as a community representative that there was very little support. Originally, we would have had a community development worker. That had gone. My understanding from many of the drug services is that those community development workers have been moved to different positions or the position has been lost. It has broken a link between the community representatives and the community on the ground. It is an extremely important pillar of the National Drug Strategy that there are links between the community, drug and alcohol task forces and the drug strategy. Can we get a commitment that there will be a refocus on community development workers within drug task forces?
The most vulnerable group who are at risk of homelessness would be those who are engaged in drug and alcohol misuse. Can we get a commitment from the Government to extend the ban on evictions up until the end of 2021 and a ban on rent increases to give people security that as we come out of this they will not end up in homelessness?