Tuesday, 13 July 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
I wish to ask the Minister the details of funding and supports for family addiction services. I spoke to the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, about the matter and he will not be shocked that I am looking for details on supports for groups such as the Family Addiction Support Network, FASN, in Dundalk. He attended the network's events previously. The FASN plays a major role in the provision of family supports and also in drug-debt intimidation reporting, which is a significant issue. The network faces closure, and it needs funding from the State. I would also like to hear about the criteria and timelines.
The national drug strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery, recognises the role of families affected by drug use in contributing to the planning, design and delivery of effective addiction services. In budget 2021, I secured €280,000 in additional funding to support family services. This funding will be used to develop and broaden the range of peer-led, mutual aid and family support programmes in accordance with best practice, in line with action 16 of the national drugs strategy.
The development of family support services is listed as a drug and alcohol priority in the HSE's national service plan for 2021. It is intended that the HSE will develop co-ordinated family support programmes in the following four areas this year: Dublin north inner city, Cork and Kerry, Louth and Meath, and Donegal. Each initiative will be allocated €70,000. I am pleased to report that the funding allocated for these services is currently being drawn down by the HSE in line with departmental guidelines. I am aware of the interest in the allocation of this funding in the four regions, including by the Family Addiction Support Network in Louth and Meath. I am confident that these initiatives will make a valuable contribution to supporting families with addiction issues in their local communities.
I welcome the publication of the Drogheda report. Drug activities are affecting individuals and communities in Drogheda and across the north-east region, leading to ill health, premature deaths, damaged family and social relations and drug-related violence and intimidation. I am committed to improving the availability of drug and alcohol services in the north-east region of Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan. There has been an allocation of €150,000 for drug and alcohol services in Drogheda, and a further €150,000 for family support services to improve access to community-based drug and alcohol services across the region.
I seek clarity. The Minister of State can correct me if I am wrong, but I understand two allocations of moneys were provided, one to be drawn down directly by the HSE, and the other that was issued by the North Eastern Regional Drug Task Force. One was to deal directly with family support services for those affected by addiction. We need to hear about the timeline and the criteria. This is an organisation that everybody, including the State services, recognises as doing necessary work but it is surviving on the basis of volunteerism. That is not sustainable into the future. These moneys have been promised for a considerable time. I would welcome some detail on the reason for the hold-up. I want to hear about the timeline and criteria and how quickly this money can be provided for use.
I feel strongly that the families of drug users need to have appropriate, accessible and timely services available to them. I know the Family Addiction Support Network in Dundalk and across the country is aiding people who are often unaware that there is any help available at all. I intend to continue to work with all the relevant stakeholders across the statutory and community and voluntary sectors to achieve better outcomes for problem drug and alcohol abusers. I am aware that FASN, and all organisations providing addiction supports, have adapted to new ways of working during the pandemic. I will work with the Deputy. I encourage the FASN to engage with the HSE regarding the funding announced in budget 2021 for the region. It is the HSE that it will work with, and the Deputy can contact me if any issues arise.
I have arrived in the Chamber directly from a joint policing committee meeting in Dundalk. The Minister of State referred earlier to the Guerin report. Drug-debt intimidation and addiction are major issues. We cannot let organisations like this fail. The FASN is liaising with the HSE, but it is concerned because it has been awaiting the money for a considerable period. We need to get the funding as soon as possible.
I return to the same question on the timelines and criteria for funding. There is no doubt that I will work alongside the Minister of State to deliver the funding because it is far too important to let it go. I am very worried that we are running out of time. We are also running out of time for supports for families. We are dealing with an organisation that deals directly with the Garda. Sometimes it is easier for people to talk to the FASN and then have information on drug debt and intimidation passed on to the Garda. It is vital that funding is provided.
I was honoured to be invited by Gwen McKenna, on behalf of the Family Addiction Support Network, to launch the report, Crossing the Threshold - A facilitator's guide to running developmental and support groups. I understand the Department of Health agreed base funding of €152,000 for the FASN in 2020, delivered in four instalments of €38,000. Funding of €3,000 was also provided for a virtual annual conference, which took place earlier this year. In addition to the base funding of €152,000, the Department provides agreed funding for a drug-related intimidation officer of €52,000 per year for three years, commencing in 2020. Due to delays in filling the post in 2020, only €10,000 was drawn down by the FASN.
I thank the Deputy for his question and I look forward to working with him. I enjoyed my visit to Dundalk. In the time of Covid, we do not get out enough, so I was delighted to be able to see at first hand the work being done there.