Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Drug and Alcohol Services, and Homelessness): Statements
Cormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
I welcome the Ministers of State to the House, as well as the opportunity to discuss drug, alcohol and homeless services during the Covid-19 pandemic. During the first wave of the pandemic services for the most vulnerable people were severely impacted. The resumption of services for people with drug or alcohol dependency and the continuation of homeless services is to be very much welcomed. It must be noted that the impact of Covid-19 restrictions are not equal. People who are homeless or those living in overcrowded accommodation find it much more difficult to self isolate or restrict their movements and interactions. This is compounded in cases where there is an addiction or alcohol or drug use.
People often have complex health needs. People who are homeless are at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19 and are more likely to require emergency healthcare services during the winter months. I welcome the extra funding provided by the Government and the Department, along with the HSE winter plan, to support people who are homeless. In particular, the €4 million allocated by the Department to address the addiction and mental health needs of people who are homeless is very welcome. I understand this includes health supports for 218 new tenancies under the housing first programme and customised healthcare plans for 1,300 people living in single person accommodation.
Some of the individual measures in Dublin are especially welcome. They include: the continuation of the seven-day dedicated homeless response team; the operation of a 110-bed isolation unit for homeless families and single people, supported by nursing, GP and social care services; health supports for 250 people cocooning while living in private versus accommodation; support for single people who are homeless, including an 18-bed unit for people with complex needs; and provision for mobile testing, tracing and self isolation facilities for people who are homeless with suspected cases of Covid-19.
I want to acknowledge the efforts of everyone in this area, in particular those on the front line, local authorities and organisations such as Inner City Helping Homeless which has continued to do fantastic work throughout the pandemic. In the medium term it is important to acknowledge the success of the housing first programme. I look forward to seeing these critical initiatives expanded in line with the commitments in the programme for Government.
Can the Minister of State confirm the number of residential treatment places available for people in need of addiction support? Are there plans to increase the number of beds? I ask for a response on that in writing.