Seanad debates

Thursday, 13 October 2011

2:00 pm

Photo of Averil PowerAveril Power (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister of State for attending. I am glad to have the opportunity to highlight the need for the Department of Education and Skills to maintain 2012 funding for Laneview Learning Centre Dublin 17 at the current level. As the Minister of State will be aware, Laneview is an educational centre in Belcamp, Dublin 17. It takes referrals from the local HSE methadone clinic located next door. Its director, Pat Hanna, and his team have put together a very comprehensive education and personal development programme of 22 hours a week. This involves a wide range of elements, including basic literacy classes and computer classes, both of which are supported by the VEC which supplies tutors. The clients also participate in horticulture training and spend one day a week working in a greenhouse in Rush where they get an opportunity to learn new skills. They also do art and drama classes in the centre.

The availability of a supportive environment with group and individual counselling is an essential element in enabling clients to avail of the education programmes on offer in Laneview. For many of its clients, Laneview is the first involvement they have had in any form with education since their early teenage years. Its director informed me that a large number of the participants started using serious drugs at the age of 12 so for many of them it is their first opportunity to avail of real education since they were very young. The objective of the programme offered in the centre is to help clients to rebuild their lives and reduce their reliance on methadone. All clients must sign a contract when they are referred from the methadone clinic to Laneview committing to cut down on the amount of methadone they are taking. The objective is to wean them off reliance on methadone and to improve their home environment. The Laneview centre works as closely as possible with families to involve spouses and other family members to ensure when the person goes home, he or she has as supportive an environment as possible. The ultimate objective of the programme is to enable clients to take up education and work opportunities. Previous clients have gone on to sit the junior certificate, which is a huge achievement for them. They have also participated in vocational training courses for careers such as hairdressing and other such areas. There is no doubt that without the supportive environment offered by the Laneview centre, including the counselling elements I mentioned, the people involved could not have done this. Most clients would never have signed up for a standard education programme nor would a standard environment be suitable for them given their dependence on methadone and their need for supportive services as well as educational ones. The Laneview centre provides them with educational opportunities which are simply not available anywhere else.

The ongoing partnership between the centre and the HSE is also crucial. The clients sign the contract before coming to the Laneview centre. Regular reviews take place and staff from the centre along with HSE staff every week check people are fulfilling the commitments they made and are making progress. They also keep an eye on them all the time so people do not end up dropping out.

I raise this issue because the centre already suffered a major cut in funding of 30% in 2009. It has pared back its costs as much as possible and adapted and protected its services inasmuch as it can, but it has heard its funding is in line for another severe cut next year. I urge the Minister of State not to let this happen and to intervene with his colleague the Minister, Deputy Quinn, and the Department.

Further cuts would have huge social costs for the individuals themselves and for their families and communities. It would also cost the State much more in the long run in economic terms. Laneview has worked with former prisoners who, with the support of the centre, have stayed out of trouble and avoided re-offending. The Minister of State is well aware of the high cost of prison places. If cuts lead to the centre having to reduce its programmes next year or, the worst possible outcome, to close, and one more person ends up in prison as a result, the overall financial cost to the State in the long term would be far greater than funding the centre.

I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this issue and I urge the Minister of State to do everything he can with his colleague, the Minister, Deputy Quinn, and other members of the Government to protect this vital service from cuts next year.

Photo of Ciarán CannonCiarán Cannon (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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I am taking this Adjournment matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy RuairĂ­ Quinn, and I thank Senator Power for raising the matter.

The Department contributes to the overall aim of Government policy on drugs and the national drugs strategy, which is to provide an effective integrated response to the problems posed by drug misuse. Part of the Department's contribution to the national drugs strategy is to provide funding for a number of projects in local drugs task force areas.

Laneview Learning Centre, also known as the rehabilitation and support programme, RASP, was established in 1998 with the aim of addressing drug problems in the Coolock area of Dublin. In 2005, following a review of its operation, the board of RASP changed the name of its building to Laneview Learning Centre.

Laneview Learning Centre provides a community-based drug rehabilitation project for adults who are in recovery from addiction. Through the provision of a community employment scheme it provides a number of placements for adults from the Dublin 17 area who are on a treatment programme with the adjacent Beldale Clinic, operated by the HSE. The project provides a programme which has both an educational content and a rehabilitation emphasis.

This year, for the educational component of the programme, the Department has allocated €138,847 towards the RASP project at Laneview Learning Centre. This is the same as the 2010 allocation for the project. This funding primarily goes towards the cost of one staff salary, the cost of leasing premises and other programme costs.

Senator Power will be aware that my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, is undertaking a comprehensive expenditure review across all areas of Government spending. This process will inform budgetary decisions and the Senator will appreciate that I am not in a position at present to state what funding allocation will be made available by the Department to the Laneview Learning Centre in 2012. A decision regarding the provision of an allocation to Laneview Learning Centre for 2012 will be taken by the Department in the context of the overall budgetary process for 2012.

The Department acknowledges that the RASP project at Laneview Learning Centre provides a significant service to stabilised recovering adult drug users. The project provides a programme which has both learning content and, equally, a strong rehabilitation emphasis. I assure the Senator that the Department will inform the project of decisions on its future funding as early as possible.

In addition to the funding provided for the Laneview Learning Centre and five other projects in local drugs task force areas, the Department makes a significant contribution in support of the prevention pillar of the national drugs strategy through the mandatory social, personal and health education curriculum at primary level and at junior cycle at second level; through the initiatives under the delivering equality of opportunity in schools, DEIS, action plan to prevent early school leaving and achieve better educational outcomes for students, given that early school leaving is a major indicator for those engaging in substance misuse; and through the guidelines on substance use policies issued to all schools.

I assure Senator Power that the Department remains committed, within the resources available to it, to provide support for the national drugs strategy.