Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Department of Education and Skills

Crime Prevention

Photo of Aodhán Ó RíordáinAodhán Ó Ríordáin (Dublin Bay North, Labour)
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133. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the work or measures that her Department plans to take to address anti-social, behaviour and drug dealing on school premises outside school hours in the Dublin area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23611/22]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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My Department is working along with other Government Departments and agencies to support full implementation of the Government’s national drug strategy - Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery 2017-2025 and is leading on a number of actions to build the skills, knowledge and resilience and well-being in all of our young people so they are equipped to deal with the challenges they face, including those relating to drug use.

Last year, my Department participated in the mid-term review of the drug and alcohol strategy, published in November 2021. On its publication, Minister of State for Public Health, Well-being and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan, T.D, identified as a priority ‘the need to address the social determinants and consequences of drug use and criminality in disadvantaged communities’ requiring the involvement and co-operation of a range of government department and agencies in tackling the root causes of drug and alcohol use. To address priorities over the remaining period of the Strategy, six strategic priorities have been identified in the review to strengthen the health-led approach to drug use and to align with the EU Drugs Strategy and Action Plan.

The first priority is to strengthen the prevention of drug use and its associated harms among children and young people. My Department will participate in the work of the dedicated Strategic Implementation Group established by the Department of Health to lead on this priority.

Schools also play an important role in supporting their students to develop the skills and knowledge they need to make informed choices when faced with difficult issues including drugs and alcohol which unfortunately most of them will face. This is mainly done through the Social, Personal and Health Education Programme which has a specific module on the use and misuse of a range of substances. SPHE is currently mandatory in all primary schools and in junior cycle. It forms part of the mandatory Well-being area of learning for the new junior cycle introduced in 2017. SPHE along with the implementation of the Well-being Policy Statement and Framework 2018-2023 aim to support the development of socially and emotionally competent, resilient young people who respect themselves, their peers and are able to form healthy relationships and make healthy life choices and decisions. Schools are also encouraged to deliver the SPHE programme in senior cycle. Topics within SPHE include student decision-making skills, safety and protection. Students learn how to exercise judgement, weigh up different possibilities, examine the steps and choices they take to inform decision making and develop the ability to assess the consequences of poor decisions and risky behaviour. Schools also have access to a number of resources to support the delivery of the substance use module of SPHE. Examples include the "Walk Tall" Programme for primary pupils developed by the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) and a post-primary resource called "On My Own Two Feet", published by my Department. The new 'Know the Score' programme is a substance misuse programme published in 2019 for Transition Year or 5th year pupils. It was jointly developed by the HSE, my Department and the Drugs and Alcohol Task Forces.

In order to strengthen links between schools and local Drug and Alcohol Task Forces, last year an information resource was developed and circulated to all 4,000 primary and post primary schools. Developed by the Drug and Alcohol Task Forces in conjunction with my Department, the resource provides information on the range of supports that drug and alcohol task forces can provide to schools, parents and students to prevent and tackle drug and alcohol use and to strengthen communications between local schools and drug and alcohol task forces. It also provides information on a range of valuable resources for schools and parents relating to drug and alcohol use.

My Department currently provides funding to 3 projects in Local Drugs Task Force Areas in Dublin. These are the Blanchardstown Early School Leavers Project, Crinan Youth Project (Salesian Youth Enterprises) and Familibase.

There are also range of supports available to schools in Dublin’s North East Inner City area. My Department supports schools in the North East Inner City of Dublin to improve educational outcomes of the pupil cohort. My Department is represented on the Programme Implementation Board for the NEIC and has allocated a dedicated NEIC Education Initiatives Manager to work with schools and key stakeholders in the area. My Department has been involved in the establishment of the Principals’ Network for schools in the NEIC area and is involved in the P-Tech and City Connects pilot initiatives.

Where a school has concerns in relation to the use of their premises for anti-social behaviour and drug dealing they should be brought to the attention of the local Garda Crime Prevention Officer who will prepare a report on a visit to the school. The information in this report outlining recommended security measures should be considered by the school authority in the first instance to determine what follow up actions are required. The school authority may email the report to my Department at this email address emergency_works@education.gov.ie where it will be examined and advice will issue as to what, if any, recommendations contained in the report fall under the scope of the Emergency Works Scheme.

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