Wednesday, 29 April 2009
Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
National Drugs Strategy
Question 89: To ask the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if and the amount by which funding to the National Drugs Strategy will be increased on foot of the Government decision to incorporate alcohol into the strategy. [16685/09]
Question 96: To ask the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the proposed new National Substance Misuse Strategy will replace the new National Drugs Strategy; the progress to date in developing this new substance misuse strategy; when it will be published; the way it will be funded; if the National Drug Strategy team will be dissolved under this new strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16753/09]
Question 111: To ask the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position of the National Drug Strategy; the number of staff assigned to the development of the strategy; if this number has been decreased; when the strategy will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16743/09]
John Curran (Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State with special responsibility for Integration and Community, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 89, 96, 105 and 111 together.
On 31st March last, the Government gave approval for the development of a combined National Substance Misuse Strategy to cover both alcohol and drugs.
As I am sure the Deputies will agree, this decision is very welcome and recognises the widespread public concern in Ireland in relation to the problem use of alcohol — both as a stand-alone public health issue and in association with illicit drug use. Developing a substance misuse policy, which encompasses both drugs and alcohol, presents many challenges, therefore, given the nature and complexities of the public health and other issues involved.
Notwithstanding this, I am also very conscious that work on developing a National Drugs Strategy is well advanced at this stage and that the Steering Group, which is developing proposals in this regard, will be presenting me with their findings in the coming weeks.
Accordingly, having considered the matter, it has been decided to proceed on the following basis:
Work on completing the National Drugs Strategy will be finalised in the coming weeks and I expect to be presenting it to Government for approval in late May/early June. The Strategy will be published as an "interim" Strategy pending the drafting and finalisation of a National Substance Misuse Strategy; and
A new Steering Group will be established in autumn 2009 to develop proposals for an overall Substance Misuse Strategy that will incorporate the already agreed drugs policy element. The Group will be asked to report by the end of 2010.
As part of the restructuring proposed in the new Drugs Strategy, the National Drugs Strategy Team (NDST) will be discontinued from 30th April. It is intended that proposals for the establishment of a new dedicated Ministerial Drugs Office will be submitted to Government for consideration in the context of the new Drugs Strategy. In the interim, the general functions of the NDST will be absorbed appropriately within my Department.
There has been no change in the number of staff working on the new Drugs Strategy within my Department. As outlined above, this work is being overseen by a Steering Group comprising representatives of the relevant Departments, statutory agencies and the community & voluntary sectors. The Steering Group is chaired by my Department, at Assistant Secretary level, and four other officials are also engaged in the development of the Strategy, as part of their on-going Departmental work.
No decisions have yet been made on the funding of the National Substance Misuse Strategy. Considerable resources are already targeted at problem substance use in Ireland and the challenge over the coming years, given the current financial constraints facing the country, will be to maximise the overall effectiveness of that funding.