‘One-Off payments to Drug Task Forces insufficient’

by Rebecca Ryan
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Fianna Fail TD for Dublin Mid-West, John Curran has said the Government’s poor attitude towards delivering much needed funding to the Local and Regional Drug Taskforces in communities nationwide, is letting down those most in need of support for problem drug and alcohol use.

The Deputy received a response from the Minister recently, which indicates that after being left without funding since January, Local and Regional Drug Task Forces are to receive a once off payment in October to allow them operate until December.

Deputy Curran commented: “In Budget 2018, the government announced an additional allocation of €6.5m for drug-related actions. Three separate pieces of additional funding were allocated to Task Forces during 2018 (amounting to approx. €52,000 per Task Force) however, this funding is all once-off.

“The most recent piece of funding requires that proposals are agreed in September, the funding allocated in October and resources spent by the end of 2018.

“This type of piecemeal and once-off funding is inefficient and is inadequate to support the strategic and sustainable investment in local services needed in our communities.

“In effect, this means there has been no progress in the overall restoration of Task Force budgets during 2018. “It is crucial that restoration begins now, as we move towards a health–led approach to drug use and to the removal of criminal sanctions for possession for personal use.

“This change will only show real and tangible outcomes if there is a clear commitment from government to invest in the services that are needed and, in particular, to make sure this investment is made where it really counts, on the ground in day-to-day service delivery in our communities.”

These task forces play an essential role in communities across the country by providing a targeted response to emerging trends in drug and alcohol use. Ensuring that they are adequately funded is a matter of public health.

In order for these services to remain in communities to support those with problematic drug and/or alcohol use, they need to receive consistent levels of funding year round.

“As it stands, those working with a task force are unable to kick-start priority projects out of fear that they will be left without funding beyond the initial payment provided.

“They therefore cannot plan ahead and they are not in the position to expand or deliver comprehensive services in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

“During a time when problem drug and alcohol use is on the rise, particularly among our young people, the government need to be properly investing in community-based services.

“The reality is that these problem drug/alcohol users and their families need support at much earlier stage; comprehensive aftercare structures, school based programmes and family support services are critical.

“If the government is serious about gaining some grasp of Ireland’s drug crisis, it will move to restore consistent funding to Local and Regional Task Forces,” he concluded.

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