Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Drug and Alcohol Services, and Homelessness): Statements
Pat Buckley (Cork East, Sinn Fein)
I will give the Minister of State a good news story for a change to start. Bernard O'Hehir is from Cork City. I know him well. Many years ago, he went through the addiction services. It is well documented. He actually had to lie to get help - that will tell you how serious the service was. He has formally now just finished a little book, Memories & Hope: my long journey from there to here. What he meant by "there" was "in the bad place".
A previous speaker mentioned homelessness as well. It is joined-up thinking between the local services of county councils and city councils and the volunteer groups where resources need to be provided. At present, I have an individual case of a 64-year-old gentleman with underlying health problems who was in emergency accommodation. He was offered a HAP premises. It was utterly unsuitable, even for his health not to mind capabilities to get up three-to-four flights of stairs to access the room. Now the council has put pressure on him. Because he has refused the HAP, it will not support emergency accommodation. Technically, that person will be homeless within a week. We are talking about the Government pumping money in left, right and centre. The commonsense approach does not seem to there.
Another issue the Minister of State mentioned a while ago was dual-diagnosis. It is good to hear it being discussed in the Chamber but addiction can take many forms. It is grand for us to be inside here debating it, but the issue here is that none of us grows up to be a gambler, an alcoholic or a drug addict and to be homeless. It is a societal issue that we have left people down. There is very little joined-up thinking. There are some fabulous organisations on the ground and some amazing people within all the entities, whether it is the council or HSE, but they are not getting the supports. The magic line here is: prevention is better than cure. The issue is that we are a totally reactive society instead of being a proactive society and then when everything festers, we wonder, scratch our heads and ask, "How did that happen?" I appeal to both Ministers of State to start from the bottom up and treat the person rather than the problem in each case and, hopefully, we will address these issues.