Dáil Éireann - Volume 500 - 09 February, 1999

Written Answers - National Drugs Strategy.

69. Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation if he will give a progress report on the decisions taken by the Cabinet Committee on Social Exclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3450/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Mr. Flood): The Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion, which is chaired by the Taoiseach, has met on 12 occasions. As far as my area of responsibility is concerned it has considered matters relating to the National Drugs Strategy, the young people's facilities and services fund and the integrated services project.

Following a recent independent evaluation of the drugs initiative, the Cabinet Committee has agreed, in principle, to the continuation of the local drugs task forces in the medium term, on the basis of an appropriate framework being put in place which would enable the initiative to be measured in terms of outcomes and impacts in due course. The evaluator, in finding that a number of significant successes had been achieved in the relatively short time since they were established, had recommended that the local drugs task forces should continue, to see if the encouraging progress made to date can be translated into longer term, quantifiable and sustainable benefits on the ground.

I am preparing detailed proposals on the future operation of the task forces – in the light of the findings and recommendations of the evaluator – and I will submit these to the Cabinet Committee for consideration at an early date.

In the meantime, the task forces are continuing to implement their action plans, which contain nearly 230 separate measures under the themes of education, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and reducing local supply and for which the Government have allocated £10 million funding.

Under a separate, complementary initiative, the Government last year set up young people's facilities and services fund. The purpose of the fund is to develop youth facilities, including sport and recreational facilities, and services in disadvantaged areas where a significant drug problem exists or has the potential to develop, with a view to attracting young people in those areas – at risk of becoming involved in drugs – into more healthy and productive pursuits.

Of the Exchequer contribution of £30 million committed to the fund over the period 1998-2000, to support a variety of capital and non-capital projects, £20 million is being targeted at the local drugs task force areas. Development groups – [136] comprising representatives from the task forces, local authorities and vocational education committees – were set up in these areas and they have prepared integrated facilities and services plans. These plans are being assessed by an inter-agency committee, chaired by my Department, with a view to making recommendations to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion in the near future, regarding funding to implement them.

The remaining £10 million has been allocated by the Cabinet Committee to support strategies and projects aimed at young people and children at risk, including those at risk of drug misuse, in other major urban centres.

One of committee's priorities is to ensure a more focused and better co-ordinated response by the statutory authorities in addressing the needs of severly disadvantaged urban communities. That is being addressed by the pilot integrated services project with which the House is familiar.