1997 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts - Vote 35 - Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Resumed).

Thursday, 15 April 1999

Committee of Public Accounts Debate

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Mr. J. Meade (Secretary of the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General), Ms M. Hayes (Secretary General of the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation) and Mr. J. Duggan (Chairman of the National Drugs Strategy Team) called and examined.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell The Committee of Public Accounts is in public session. We will resume our consideration of the 1997 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts, Vote 35 - Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation. We will also be engaging in discussions with representatives of the National Drugs Strategy Team; the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, including the Garda Síochána, the Governor of Mountjoy Prison and the head of the Probation and Welfare Service; City Wide - Dublin City Wide Drugs Crisis Campaign; the Department of Environment and Local Government; the Department of Health and Children; the Eastern Health Board; the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation. We have worked out a time schedule for each section of our discussions, the first of which, due to last 30 minutes, will involve the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation and the National Drugs Strategy Team.

I would appreciate the co-operation of Members in meeting the deadlines set out on our work programme. The lead questioners today are Deputies Doherty and Rabbitte. Given that today’s proceedings will be divided into modules, I ask Members to be conscious of the time limitations. I will be glad to give Members seven to ten minutes each to ask questions, etc., but I reiterate that they must be cognisant of the time factor.

Members will recall that on the last occasion on which we considered this Vote we expressed surprise and concern that £10 million allocated in 1997 for the specific purpose of aiding the fight against drugs had not been fully expended by the end of 1998. The Committee, cognisant of the overall cost in economic and social terms of the drugs problem, decided to consider this matter further and to call before us today representatives of relevant Departments and agencies.

As stated, it is proposed to resume our consideration by spending the first 30 minutes discussing matters with the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation and the National Drugs Strategy Team. I welcome the Secretary General of the Department, Ms Margaret Hayes, and I ask her to introduce her departmental colleagues.

Ms Hayes: I am accompanied by Mr. Con Haugh, the assistant secretary whose portfolio includes responsibility for the drugs area as dealt with by the Department, and the principal officer in that area, Ms Susan McGrath.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell And the representatives of the National Drugs Strategy Team?

Ms Hayes: The chairman of the team is Mr. Jimmy Duggan, principal officer at the Department of Health and Children. Mr. Duggan will introduce the members of the team.

Mr. Duggan: I am accompanied by Mr. Ray Henry from the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation. The other members of the team are Ms Lylia Crossan from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Mr. Aidan Kinch from the Department of the Environment and Local Government; Mr. Camillus Hogan from the Department of Education and Science; Superintendent Eddie Rock from the Garda Síochána; Mr. John Harkin from FÁS; Mr. Willie Rattigan from the Eastern Health Board; Mr. Fergus McCabe who brings a community perspective to the team and Fr. Seán Cassin from Merchant’s Quay who represents the voluntary sector. Unfortunately, Dr. Joe Barry is not present as his attendance was required elsewhere.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I welcome the witnesses. The committee greatly appreciates the work our invitees are doing in this area. The purpose of this meeting is not to be critical but merely to discover why money that was voted has not been expended. We are grateful for the work done by those in the voluntary and public sectors in the fight against drugs.

I draw the attention of witnesses to the provisions of the Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Compellability, Privileges and Immunities of Witnesses) Act, 1997, specifically section 7 thereof. Witnesses should be made aware that they do not enjoy absolute privilege and should be apprised as follows: there are certain rights provided for under section 10 of the Act which include the right to give evidence, the right to produce or send documents to the Committee, the right to appear before the Committee either in person or through a representative, the right to make a written and oral submission, the right to request the Committee to direct the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents and the right to cross-examine witness. For the most part these rights may only be exercised with the consent of the Committee.

Persons being invited before the Committee are made aware of these rights and any persons identified in the course of proceedings who are not present may have to be made aware of these rights and provided with a transcript of the relevant part of the Committee’s proceedings if the Committee considers it appropriate in the interests of justice. Notwithstanding this provision in the legislation, I remind Members of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that Members should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable .

As already stated, Deputies Doherty and Rabbitte will be the lead questioners. Does the Secretary General have any new information to place before us or does she wish to make a brief statement to the Committee?

Ms Hayes: The Chairman will recall that I wrote to him on 15 February last and I gave a summary of the respective roles played by the Department, the National Drugs Strategy Team and the local drugs task forces. I also provided a progress report on the initiative to date. The report is comprehensive and considers the background to the initiative, the establishment process and the preparation, assessment and approval of plans. In view of the interest and concerns of the Committee we gave a detailed explanation regarding the factors affecting the delay in the case of the establishment of a number of the individual projects which make up the initiatives.

The only thing I wish to add to that report is to say that on page 6 - I presume Members have been provided with copies - we provided a summary of the number of individual projects that make up the initiative - 214 in total. At the time of writing, 189 projects were up and running. In the interim, this has increased to 195 and the preparatory work on the remaining 19 projects is under way. We are confident that the outstanding projects will be in operation by mid-year. Expenditure on the project is expected to exceed £8 million by the end of this month and we will comfortably exceed the £10 million provided by the end of the year.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty I welcome this very comprehensive report. It must be said that Members were not as much engaged in offering criticism as they were concerned that, in the public interest, the reason for the delay in expending moneys would be properly explained. One of the features of the report presented to the Committee is that there appear to be difficulties with establishing community structures. Will our guests illustrate those difficulties, indicate the costs involved and state how they go about setting up such structures, which seem to be vital ingredients and essential prerequisites to any action which may be taken?

Ms Hayes: The chairman of the National Drugs Strategy Team is probably in a better position to provide Members with information about the processes that have to take place on the ground in order to establish these structures and the kind of difficulties that arise where the structures are absent or where they are not working.

Mr. Duggan: I take Deputy Doherty’s point. In our report to the Committee it is indicated that the speed with which projects get under way is determined by the level of community development in particular areas. We have focused on areas where we are conscious that the pace of community development has not been as fast as it might have been in other areas and on encouraging the development of projects which would raise the level of awareness in the community about the drug problem but which also provide training for people in the community in order to begin to provide the sort of networks that are needed.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty What sort of people are selected for such training?

Mr. Duggan: Generally people with some background of working in an area, either through tenants’ organisations, residents’ associations or voluntary organisations. To be honest, they come from a variety of different backgrounds.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty How are they selected and recruited?

Mr. Duggan: It is not a matter of selecting and recruiting them; it is a matter of the task force in the area trying to encourage such people to come forward. It is rather difficult to go out and pick someone up off the street, as it were.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty Is there a list of names to work from?

Mr. Duggan: Not really. We try to encourage people living in a particular area to come forward. That is the way it must happen.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty There also appears to be a difficulty - the extent of which I do not know - in respect of the provision of premises or accommodation and it does not seem to be factored in as a cost. I am open to correction on that, however, because I may have misread the report. Have all the projects in designated areas been provided with premises and accommodation?

Mr. Duggan: No. Problems remain in certain areas. There are some task force areas where no infrastructure exists in terms of premises or accommodation. In those circumstances it often happens that a proposal for a particular project would include provision for the cost of providing accommodation or perhaps renovating existing premises. However, it is a problem in some areas that the infrastructure does not exist in terms of premises or accommodation.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty Where the infrastructure does exist, is opposition being voiced by members of the public because they believe such centres will have a negative impact on their community or because they misunderstand the work carried out at the centres?

Mr. Duggan: Absolutely, that problem exists in a number of areas.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty Is it a serious problem?

Mr. Duggan: Yes, it can be a serious problem and it has bedevilled the establishment of some projects.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty Is it necessary to apply for planning permission for the change of use or new use of such premises?

Mr. Duggan: This applies more in the case of the Eastern Health Board, representatives of which will be appearing before the Committee later. However, where change of use of premises is concerned, it is necessary to apply for planning permission which inevitably prolongs the process.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty Therefore, it may be a number of months before a premises can be made ready?

Mr. Duggan: Yes.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty Has that happened on a number of occasions?

Mr. Duggan: Yes. I recall one case in north-east Dublin where the planning process must take its course.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty How do those involved go about improving the public perception and understanding of this matter? How do they proceed to encourage people to acknowledge that this does not involve what they might initially believe it to involve?

Mr. Duggan: All the task forces appreciate that there is a need to raise their visibility in particular areas and, by doing that, to make people more aware of the need to address the problem in their area. As stated earlier, another issue we have tried to address with the task forces is to provide community awareness training for individuals which would give them an appreciation of the issues that arise from drug addiction and how they must be responded to.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty What role is played by schools in that process?

Mr. Duggan: In so far as obtaining acceptance for treatment centres, etc., is concerned their role would be limited. I believe they have a long-term role to play in terms of encouraging an appreciation of drug problems, etc., among children. However, it is difficult to see how they could have an immediate impact on the problem.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty I accept that it may appear to some people that the draw down of funding has been slower than it should have been. However, in view of the fact that Mr. Duggan has highlighted a number of the practical difficulties involved in establishing projects, does he believe that the funding provided is adequate and is it sufficient to provide for the provision of premises and the outfitting of such premises to meet the requirements of the projects?

Mr. Duggan: I do not think the lack of funding has been identified as a problem to date. On a general level, people would say that one can never have too much money but the lack of funding has not been a problem.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty The lack of funding is not a problem. Ordinary practical problems must be dealt with and the process endured until, when they are put in place, projects seem to work well.

Mr. Duggan: That is correct.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty I thank Mr. Duggan for his replies.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte To return to the accounting officer of the Department, is it correct that we are still discussing the £10 million that was allocated in early 1997 and not any additional money?

Ms Hayes: That is correct. We are also discussing the manner in which that £10 million was allocated to the 13 drug task force area plans.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I want to clarify that we are discussing the £10 million allocated by the previous Government early in 1997.

Ms Hayes: Yes.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I should preface my remarks by saying that I believe the local drugs task forces have transformed the scene and done tremendous work. The personal commitment of the Minister responsible is not in question either. However, I presume Ms Hayes and Mr. Duggan accept the fact that there is a desperate need in the community and that the circumstances in Deputy Doherty’s constituency as compared to those in mine are wildly different. Do they agree?

Ms Hayes: Yes, we would agree.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell The problem is essentially confined to the eastern seaboard is it not?

Ms Hayes: Essentially, yes.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Mr. Duggan said that a lack of funding is not the problem. Does he accept that there are a number of groups working at the coalface which would not accept that and which have not been able to obtain funding?

Mr. Duggan: I accept that there are groups which have not been able to access funding. As part of allocating funding to the various task forces, we provided a sum which would allow them to deal with groups that were in a start-up position or that needed small grants, etc., to be able to respond to any immediate or urgent situations which would arise.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte To put it in perspective, the negotiations that led to the establishment of the local drugs task forces involved discussions with a wide range of agencies including the Eastern Health Board. At that time, the board would have made the point, privately and publicly, that it was hampered by a lack of funds in developing strategies to cope with the drugs situation. I can testify that that was high on the Cabinet agenda at the time.

When that Government announced the £10 million we are discussing, it was criticised as a drop in the ocean on the 6 o’clock evening news by a leading member of the prestigious Merchant’s Quay Project. This is the middle of 1999 and that was the beginning of 1997. If the Eastern Health Board felt strangled by the lack of funds at the time and if someone from a project with the prestige of the Merchant’s Quay Project felt it was only a drop in the ocean, how is it that we have not managed to spend the £10 million in combating this problem since?

Ms Hayes: We have already outlined the factors which we all accept are very real and local, particularly the difficulty in relation to acceptability of premises. There is also a second problem in relation to the supply of suitable personnel to staff these projects. These are very real problems.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I accept that. However, it is puzzling that, if a Government is advised by the expert agencies that funding is a major problem, and it moves to tackle that problem and if a prestigious community organisation like the Merchant’s Quay Project says this is grossly inadequate - I have the press release of the time - two years later that money has not been drawn down. What value is to be placed on the advice of expert agencies if that is the case?

Mr. Duggan: To some extent we are talking about two different issues, although I appreciate it is all part of the drugs problem. The question of the funding for the drugs initiative in general is a separate issue to the £10 million for the local drugs task forces we are talking about here. What we have been negating——

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte A sum of £14 million was allocated then. The £10 million was solely for the work of supporting the task forces.

Mr. Duggan: That is correct.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Mr. Duggan, are you full-time in the job of managing the National Drugs Strategy Team?

Mr. Duggan: I am not full-time; I am half-time, but that half stretches quite a bit from week to week.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Does the strategy team interface with the public?

Mr. Duggan: In terms of having dialogue with members of the public, no, but we interface with the local drugs task forces on a day-to-day basis.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I know it is in the papers but tell us again the staffing of the National Drugs Strategy Team.

Mr. Duggan: Apart from the team members, which I have already outlined, we have two full-time staff who support the team.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte What level are those two full-time staff?

Mr. Duggan: One would be the equivalent of an executive officer in the Civil Service and the other would be the equivalent of a higher executive officer in the Civil Service. That would be roughly the level at which they are.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Having regard to the scale of this problem, and the fact that, without being emotive or alarmist, children are dying because of the drug epidemic in my constituency and in other parts of this city, is it considered that an EO and a HEO staffing the National Drugs Strategy Team is an adequate response or even a fair reflection of the political will across the parties in Dáil Éireann to deal with this problem?

Mr. Duggan: We are looking at it in a disjointed way, with respect. There is a whole department of the Eastern Health Board which is dealing with responding to the problem. I have a section in the Department of Health and Children which is responding to the problem. In so far as we are dealing with the specific issues that arise in relation to the 13 local drugs task forces, these two staff to whom I have referred are involved. I appreciate there is a much wider issue——

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Can Mr. Duggan say to the Committee that there is no question of turf wars involved? The purpose of the task forces was to tackle a situation where one Department did not know what another was doing. The Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Health and Children and Education and Science and the local authorities are involved. The purpose of the task forces was to pull all these streams together. Many people will think it a bit odd that they operate under a Department called Tourism, Sport and Recreation, but we are not here to discuss policy matters. Mr. Duggan says this is not the totality of the response; the Eastern Health Board is doing its normal work. Is there any question of turf wars being played here?

Mr. Duggan: No, absolutely not. I see it as a vital element of my job to ensure there are no turf wars, that any such issues which arise are smoothed out, that the team brings an integrated and a multi-sectoral response to the problem and that that colours their attitude towards the way we do our business.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Ms Hayes, in January 1998, the current Government announced a £30 million package to develop facilities through capital and non-capital projects, £20 million of which was to be focused on the areas worst affected - those being the task force areas. How much of that has been spent?

Ms Hayes: At the moment, much the same bottom up approach is being taken to the preparation of plans for the expenditure of that £20 million. Local planning groups were set up involving the local drugs task forces and the key critical statutory agencies in these areas. The plans have been submitted and assessed. The assessment is more or less complete and the allocation will be considered by the Cabinet sub-committee shortly.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte What is the answer to my question? How much of it has been drawn down?

Ms Hayes: None of it has been drawn down yet, Deputy. That is the short answer. It is because a lot of care and attention has been given to the preparation of plans so that, when this money is drawn down, it will be in accordance with locally accepted plans based on locally identified gaps and deficiencies. The process of its nature is slow and tedious.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I appreciate that. There must be care in the allocation of public money and there must be monitoring of where it is spent. Does Ms Hayes, in turn, accept that it is difficult to explain to community organisations in deprived areas of the city caught in a fortress without a drawbridge in terms of general deprivation with no facilities in many cases why, if a big brouhaha was made about the allocation of £30 million in January 1998, not a penny of it has been drawn down by April 1999?

Ms Hayes: I accept what the Deputy says and I can appreciate fully that people on the ground can be frustrated with the time——

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell There is more to it than that. People are dying. People are being evicted because of the behaviour of their children. There is a lack of urgency about this. The reality is that people are robbing to feed their habits. People are being attacked who do not want to be attacked and the people attacking them do not want to do so.

Ms Hayes: I cannot accept that there is a lack of urgency. This fund has been given top priority within the Department. When one asks local groups to contribute to plans and give them an opportunity to make an input, the first thing for which they ask is time to consider, and the next thing is guidance and guidelines. The preparation of both and the allowance of time has to be factored in.

In the case of the youth services and facilities fund, groups asked for enough time to prepare their plans locally. They were given until the end of September. Some groups asked for an extension of that deadline. In light of the spirit of the fund, the manner in which the allocation was made by Government and the intent of Government to have strong local ownership and local involvement, we felt it judicious to give the extension.

Three hundred projects were submitted for consideration within those plans. Each had to be assessed against the guidelines. There had to be a certain element of strategy in the prioritisation of the projects. In the case of some projects, clarification of the objectives of the project had to be sought so that local groups would be given a fair chance with their applications. Further local consultation helped highlight the need for projects and the level of acceptance of that need at local level.

The process will take some time. The level of involvement is widespread. While people are frustrated they see the reason for this and the value of it.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Eighteen months later is it not unreasonable to expect that someone would have driven the project so that, at least, there would be some testament on the horizon in some part of the 13 drugs task force areas that some physical thing would have come into existence over the 18 months? Local consultation is central to the task forces but if local consultation is allowed to go on, in some cases it will go on forever.

Before Christmas 1997 I had to call in the people who comprised the task forces to tell them that if they did not appoint chairpersons by 1 January I would do it for them. I had been waiting for six months for them to agree on how they would set up the structure. What is objectively important is that these kids get some facilities in place which divert them from drug abuse in the future. When the Secretary General assured the Chairman that the project is being driven and that there is no lack of urgency, who from the Department is on the driving committee or whatever it is?

Ms Hayes: Mrs. McGrath is our representative. I have no doubt she has given this the top priority. Part of the driving from our level is to set deadlines. Those deadlines have to be realistic and have to be seen to be reasonable by all those involved in the process.

The deadline for the submission of plans was September. We had to allow some local groups an extension on that. We will have the decisions on the allocations by end April. If we took a different approach - if I could simply sit down and allocate the £20 million it could be done centrally within the Department within one month. However, I am not so sure the plans would be nearly as good and that we would have the same level of feeling for local acceptability. At the end of the day it will not be just a case of providing and constructing facilities. We have to be sure there are groups so committed to those facilities that they will increase participation and get people involved in the utilisation of those facilities. At the end of the day it is the manner in which they are used and the level of participation from young people in the area which determines the success of each project.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte What would Ms Hayes say to the committee in terms of the schedule for allocating the moneys now that the projects are with the Department?

Ms Hayes: I said by the end of April.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte How much of the £20 million to the task force areas will be allocated in that tranche?

Ms Hayes: The £20 million will be divided out among the 13 drugs task forces. I would caution——

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I advise my Fianna Fáil colleagues that I am not making political criticisms - good, bad or indifferent and would ask them to treat me in the same way. To what extent is opposition from community groups delaying the repair of gaps in the treatment infrastructure in terms of counselling centres or whatever?

Ms Hayes: There are still a small number of projects where it is a factor. In particular, two of the task force areas have a problem.

Mr. Duggan: Nineteen projects are delayed at the moment. Of those, eight would fall into the category of treatment and rehabilitation. That is not to say they are all being delayed because of local opposition. There could be a variety of circumstances but if we are to broaden this into the Eastern Health Board treatment centres, it has had difficulty with local opposition to a number of treatment centres around the city.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Is there any way of facilitating progress?

Mr. Duggan: It is always difficult. The Deputy made the point about consultation and how far consultation goes. It seems there is some hope with the involvement of local communities in the local drugs task forces that communities will have a better appreciation of the drugs issue. The projects being funded through the local drugs task forces are aimed at raising community awareness. I hope this will lead to a greater acceptance of the need for treatment in local areas.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte In page 6 of the report Ms Hayes points out that in three different transfers, moneys totalling £5.6 million were transferred from the then Department of the Taoiseach to the Department. The table indicates: funding subsequently committed - 214 projects, £9.49 million - received funding 189 projects and £7.9 million. That was updated but how does that £7.9 million compare to the £5.6 million?

Ms Hayes: Funding committed refers to the annualised cost of each of the approved projects, not the draw down.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte What does “received funding” mean?

Ms Hayes: That they have already begun to draw down funding. They are up and running and the draw down has begun.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell That £7.9 million would be an annual expenditure which is not yet spent?

Ms Hayes: Yes.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte If they drew it down in total?

Ms Hayes: Yes, the total annualised budget. As regards the £10 million allocated for the drugs initiative, the Government has agreed to maintain the level at £10 million in our Estimate for this year and next year. That will allow for a number of projects to continue beyond the original one year basis to allow enough time for the project to settle down and to give a good run at an evaluation of its effect.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte How many people comprise the National Drugs Strategy Team and how frequently do they formally meet?

Mr. Duggan: There are 12 people on the team. We have a standing arrangement to meet every Tuesday and then we meet outside that as required. That could run to two, three or four meetings in any given week depending on what the issue is and whether we are meeting task forces or chairs of task forces.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Is the thrust of each meeting taken up with evaluating projects before the team?

Mr. Duggan: No.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Is that the burden of the business?

Mr. Duggan: No, it takes on a variety of issues. That would be one but we also deal with any problems arising in particular areas in relation to delays in getting projects started or sorting out any difficulties between agencies, which we frequently come up against. We cover a variety of issues.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Because of time management requirements I will introduce the officials from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I welcome Mr. Pat Folan, Assistant Secretary. Perhaps you would introduce your officials?

Mr. Pat Folan, Assistant Secretary, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, called and examined.

Mr. Folan: I am accompanied by Mr. Martin Tansey, Chief Probation Officer, Mr. John Lonergan, Governor of Mountjoy Prison, Superintendent Eddie Rock from the Garda National Drugs Squad, representing the Garda Commissioner, and two officials from the Department, Brian Purcell from the Garda crime division and Rory Gogan from the prisons division.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell A number of Deputies are offering. I will allow brief questions to Ms Hayes and Mr. Duggan who will be staying with us.

Deputy Ardagh: Information on Seán Ardagh Zoom on Seán Ardagh As four of the task force areas are in Dublin South-Central, I am deeply interested in this matter. Both statutory bodies and community groups are involved in the organisation of the projects being carried out by the various drugs task force teams. In the past few months, I have noted a significant improvement in the manner in which groups are reacting to people and people are reacting to the projects, which is very positive.

I am concerned about community groups rather than statutory bodies. A question mark arises in regard to whether community groups will become mainstream. If a particular community project is put in place, what will happen post 2000? Residents in various areas are concerned that projects may be put in place now and left in limbo after the year 2000. This is the reason advanced by community groups that projects should not go ahead.

Mr. Duggan: The intention is that every project being funded under this initiative would be formally evaluated. If the evaluation is favourable and if it is felt the project should continue, the intention would be that the particular statutory agency through which funding is being channelled at present would take over responsibility for the project. That would be done in accordance with agreed protocols between the project, the task force and the relevant statutory agency.

Deputy Ardagh: Information on Seán Ardagh Zoom on Seán Ardagh Mr. Duggan used two “ifs” and other words which do not imply a definitive response to my question. This area must be examined more thoroughly. Statutory agencies need to become more involved in the community projects being developed in order that they are statutorily rather than community based. The problem will not go away and should be addressed now before it grows out of control in the months ahead.

Deputy Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy Zoom on John Dennehy I do not wish to be overly parochial about this matter but the problem was identified as primarily an east coast one. I want to ask about the genesis of the task forces, of which there are 12 in Dublin and one in Cork. Who decided on the catchment area for each task force? Was the decision a political one?

Mr. Duggan: That was decided by the ministerial task force.

Deputy Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy Zoom on John Dennehy So it was a political decision.

Ms Hayes: The catchment areas were based on statistics relating to the incidence of heroin abuse in particular provided by the Health Research Board, the agency that normally monitors the level of the incidence of drug abuse.

Deputy Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy Zoom on John Dennehy At the time these task forces were being drawn up, I was chairman of the Southern Health Board and its anti-drug and alcohol committee which was established in 1982 without any significant funding. What source of information was used to establish the task force on the heroin problem in the Cork location?

Mr. Duggan: Ms Hayes stated that information came from a number of sources, including treatment data from the Health Research Board. Further information, including information on arrests for drug misuse, would have come from other agencies.

Deputy Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy Zoom on John Dennehy I have no wish to go back to the start of this matter but perhaps I could be provided with a note on it. To my knowledge, only two groups, namely, the Garda and the health board, were involved in this area and neither group supplied information.

I stated previously to the Secretary General that I was concerned that somebody in Dublin could decide the drug problem could stop at the channel of the River Lee. I may be labouring the point but if the other areas were set up according to the same rationale I could see how it would have resulted in a shambles. The Southern Health Board was accepted by the Department as the leader in involving the general public, the Garda and other agencies in this matter but it could not secure funding. However, money could be provided to an ad hoc group set up to address the issue. It would have been important for the Southern Health Board to have had a real input into the matter. Deputy Rabbitte stated that lengthy discussions took place with the Eastern Health Board. Did the same apply with the Southern Health Board?

Mr. Duggan: With respect, the Deputy is asking me to go into the deliberations of the ministerial task force to which I was not privy.

Deputy Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy Zoom on John Dennehy We can criticise all we like but the criteria for selecting some of these groups and the operational decisions which were made worry me. We are now seeing the results of those, including the delay factor. The Southern Health Board submitted a programme which, if funded, would immediately have put in place solutions to this problem throughout Cork and Kerry. However, no funding was provided although it was given to one political niche of the city. If we are going to be critical about this, we need to know where we are to go from here.

We received a supplement from the Secretary General on the allocation of funding for the 13 task force areas. I have gone through the list but failed to see any familiar projects there. I would have presumed that approximately one thirteenth of the finance would have been allocated to the Cork task force. Are any projects included for the Cork area?

Mr. Duggan: Is the Deputy referring to the £10 million?

Deputy Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy Zoom on John Dennehy I have a list of the funding given to the voluntary/community organisations and a supplement to it.

Mr. Duggan: A total of £546,700 was provided to the Cork local drugs task force. We can provide the Deputy with a list of projects being funded from that money.

Deputy Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy Zoom on John Dennehy Is this supplementary list separate to that?

Ms Hayes: We provided appendix 1 to that progress report which listed allocations to all local drug task forces, including north Cork city. We showed the different phases of the draw-downs. There was no phase 1 draw-down for north Cork city because the plan came in late and we had already made the whole allocation to it so that there would not be any delay on the ground.

Deputy Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy Zoom on John Dennehy Was there any particular reason that was delayed? Was it because an artificial format was imposed on the existing structures at the time?

Ms Hayes: I do not have any particular insight on that but I suspect it related to the common problem of getting local people to consult and agree on a set of measures and put community structures in place.

Deputy Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy Zoom on John Dennehy I agree this is one of the most serious issues with which the committee will deal. I want it to be dealt with from the perspective of community concerns rather than from a political angle. The record has not been good up to now and we need to improve matters rapidly.

Deputy Gildea: Information on Thomas Gildea Zoom on Thomas Gildea In view of the delay in drawing down funding, would it be appropriate to ask Fr. Cassin of the voluntary sector for his opinion on how the Department deals with this?

Fr. Cassin: Some 13 local task forces were set up to deal with the drugs problem which exists predominantly in Dublin and partly in Cork. To expect 13 local task forces to solve a problem of this magnitude is expecting an awful lot. What was dynamic and pioneering about the local task forces was that they began to tackle a problem in disadvantaged areas which had been ignored for years. When one reads “drugs”, one can substitute the words “health”, “unemployment”, “housing”, “income” and years of neglect of those issues in local areas.

Deputy Rabbitte spoke about an organisation that employed me in the past and referred to the £10 million as a drop in the ocean. In relation to the levels of unemployment, destitution and disadvantage that exists in certain areas, £10 million is a drop in the ocean. The infrastructural, political and organisational structures required to deal with those levels of disadvantage would cost far in excess of £10 million. As a member of the National Drugs Strategy Team and as someone who comes from the voluntary sector, I have visited these local areas and engaged with local communities and tenants, residents and community groups who are trying to work at this issue. One of the difficulties experienced is lack of unity between public representatives, who sometimes appear to take the side of intransigent local resident groups who are opposed to treatment. This makes the work of community groups very difficult. It also results in an inadequate level of leadership which makes my job more difficult in selling the idea of drug treatment to local communities.

For 25 years, a predominantly prohibitive approach was taken to drug users where people sought to lock up drug users rather than deal with the issue. The drug user or pusher was seen as the problem, but we know this is not true. Drug abuse is a result of social disadvantage, unemployment and neglect which has existed for many years.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I have heard this said for years, but the reality is that the drugs problem becomes greater the more prosperous society becomes. There are more drugs in New York than in Calcutta. I come from the sort of area described by Fr. Cassin but I did not go on drugs, nor did my friends, even though there was more deprivation then than there is now. Are these statements just excusing bad behaviour?

Fr. Cassin: I am doing my best to adopt an objective and rational approach to the problem. When one blames people for drug abuse, one chooses to disregard the social responsibilities of a society to a disadvantaged sector. Throughout Europe the correlation between disadvantage and heroin use is well documented. English health authorities talk about a causal link between disadvantage and heroin use. We would do far better at a political level to tackle those social issues in a more comprehensive manner.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan On the last occasion concern was expressed by a number of Members, including the Chair and Deputy Ardagh, about the scope of consultations with local communities prior to the setting up of these clinics. Is there any improvement in this regard? Members suggested that there should be guidelines by the health boards. Has any work been done on this issue?

Mr. Duggan: The health board members might deal with that aspect later in greater detail. We believe that the establishment of the task forces, and the involvement of communities in the task force process, has made it somewhat easier, although it has not solved the problem.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan No, but it is being offered as one of the major excuses for not drawing down the funds. What percentage of the delay in drawing down funds is caused by local objections to treatment clinics?

Mr. Duggan: It is difficult to put a figure on it.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan You said that eight out of 19 treatment and rehabilitation centres are delayed. What is the reason for that?

Mr. Duggan: There are a number of reasons, including planning permission.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan How many are due to planning permission?

Mr. Duggan: Two, to the best of my knowledge.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan Therefore, it is not a major source of difficulty.

Mr. Duggan: I am talking about two of the 19 which are going through the planning process. This is why they have not started. The others are delayed because of local opposition.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan How much of the blame do you allocate to local opposition to the clinics or to just general delay because of the task force problems and the difficulty in sourcing people and finding viable projects? How many of the projects are delayed because of local people objecting to clinics?

Mr. Duggan: Perhaps I should explain that what we are talking about——

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan It is a relatively simple calculation. You have the statistics at your disposal.

Mr. Duggan: I am trying to clarify the situation. We are talking about two separate matters. The Eastern Health Board is attempting to provide treatment centres throughout the city where local opposition is a factor. In so far as the projects being funded from the £10 million allocated to local drugs task forces is concerned, of the eight, approximately two relate to an application for planning permission. It is difficult to ascertain how many of the remainder relate to local opposition. Other factors may be involved.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan In other words local opposition is a small enough contributory factor. It is not as big an issue as you suggested.

Mr. Duggan: Not in relation to these projects.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan In the overall scheme of things, would you agree that the delay in drawing down the funds is due in a small way to local opposition to clinics?

Mr. Duggan: Yes.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan I am glad you clarified that point, because a number of speakers are trying to create the impression that there is massive local opposition to these centres.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell We will discuss this issue later when the health board members come before us.

Ms Hayes: I would refer Deputy Lenihan to page 10 of the document we circulated. This gave the breakdown of the 25 projects that were delayed. Seven are infrastructural related problems, planning problems, local acceptability problems and the problem of obtaining a premises. These constitute eight of the 19 outstanding projects but the bulk of the money is committed to them. These tend to be the bigger cost projects. When one homes in on the amount of money drawn down, these grow in significance. This is the reason much prominence was given during our last discussions to the scale of money drawn down. Numerically they may look small but, because of the cost, they account for a large part of the delay in funding draw down.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan Can you give us a breakdown of the amount of funding that has been delayed due to specific objections to clinics by local people?

Ms Hayes: Yes, we can supply that information.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan It is important that we get that information because it is being offered as an excuse for the delay.

Ms Hayes: We will supply the committee with that information.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan How much money, as a percentage of the overall budget, has been held up because of local objections to the planning process?

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell We will come back to that point in the afternoon.

Deputy McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack Zoom on Pádraic McCormack This is a most unusual meeting. Most of our time is usually concerned with over-spending. This is the first meeting in five or six years which has met to discuss under-spending. Can you give an example of an acceptable project put forward in one of the 13 designated areas?

Ms Hayes: Mr. Duggan, who was involved in the assessment of the projects, will deal with that point.

Mr. Duggan: The initiative covers a wide range of projects from education, prevention, rehabilitation and treatment. We approved projects relating to community addiction study courses in a number of areas. Local people attend addiction study courses and attain a qualification which gives them a better appreciation of the drugs problem and could lead to their attaining a formal qualification in counselling. We also approved a primary prevention group which works with young children. We have funded a number of projects where materials have been developed for delivering a drug awareness message. Other projects target special client groups to whom the normal type of information about drugs may not be filtering through. Community drug schemes have been established in a number of areas also to provide counselling and prevention and education services.

Deputy McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack Zoom on Pádraic McCormack That gives me a flavour of what is required. I have a copy of a press release by Deputy Rabbitte dated January 1998 which mentions the £20 million approved by Cabinet in May 1997. If the examples you have given are so simple, why has none of this money been drawn down?

Mr. Duggan: The £20 million relates to the youth services and facilities fund which is outside my remit.

Deputy McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack Zoom on Pádraic McCormack Whose remit is it?

Ms Hayes: The drugs initiative relates to a £10 million allocation made in 1997 continued through Estimates and endorsed by the Government for 1998.

Deputy McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack Zoom on Pádraic McCormack It was announced as £20 million.

Ms Hayes: The £20 million was an additional allocation under a different heading for youth services and facilities.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell For clarification purposes, could you give us a list of the headings and amounts allocated by various Departments? A sum of £10 million was allocated to local drugs task forces in 1997 and up to £8 million has been committed. There is a £20 million allocation for facilities in these 13 areas, none of which has yet been drawn down.

Ms Hayes: Yes.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell What other expenditure has been specifically assigned to this area?

Ms Hayes: I can only comment on my own Vote. They are the two allocations relating to my Department.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell How much money has been allocated and how much or how little has been spent?

Ms Hayes: The two amounts I have mentioned have been allocated and dedicated to the provision of facilities and services in the 13 specific areas mentioned. It is also a stated policy objective of our Minister to prioritise the allocation of grants to projects in disadvantaged areas under the sports capital programme.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell In addition to the £20 million mentioned?

Ms Hayes: Yes.

Deputy McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack Zoom on Pádraic McCormack When will the next list be drawn up? This is a national rather than a localised problem. Such problems are being experienced in my county also.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Galway?

Deputy McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack Zoom on Pádraic McCormack Yes.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Do you agree there is a heroin problem in Galway?

Ms Hayes: I do not have evidence before me to confirm or deny that. There may be heroin use but we are not aware of any significant level of incidence of such use.

Deputy McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack Zoom on Pádraic McCormack The problem begins with the use of heroin. When will the list be reviewed?

Ms Hayes: There is provision for an independent evaluation of the total expenditure of each individual project funded. We are putting together the evaluation framework. We have not set a timeframe for the completion of that but we will afford sufficient time to projects to bed down and test the various theories set for them. The evaluation will proceed from the end of this year on a project by project basis. A decision will then be made on each project.

Deputy McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack Zoom on Pádraic McCormack That is an evaluation of existing areas?

Ms Hayes: Yes. The intention is that if the principles work they will be mainstreamed.

Deputy Bell: Information on Michael Bell Zoom on Michael Bell I agree with my colleagues it is unusual for this committee to encourage organisations to spend money rather than account for spending. One might conclude that no drugs problem exists in County Louth. We would be very happy to help the various agencies to spend some of the £10 million. Since pressure has been applied to drug barons and suppliers in Dublin and across the Border they have found very lucrative markets in places like Drogheda and Dundalk and other areas outside Dublin city. Let no one think drugs is a city problem. It is a problem about which I, as a rural Deputy, will make a very strong case to the relevant Ministers following this meeting.

Has any international comparison been made with the way other countries are dealing with this problem? What funding and facilities are available? Has a study been undertaken of the impact of heroin and other drug related problems in other European countries through intergovernmental connections or EU agencies?

Mr. Duggan: We are aware of the situation in other countries. In so far as heroin misuse is concerned, it would broadly reflect our experience. The general thrust of policies in most countries is to take the integrated approach of pulling agencies together with local communities to try to respond to it at local level. In so far as policy issues are concerned, different jurisdictions take different approaches in relation to harm reduction, etc. The general thrust is towards involving statutory, voluntary and community agencies in responding in an integrated way to the problem.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Some people say that under the methadone treatment programme we are merely replacing one drug with another and that methadone is more destructive of the internal system than heroin. It can only be a short-term palliative rather than a long-term study but it appears it is being pursued as a long-term strategy. What do you say to that?

Mr. Duggan: Methadone has been proven to be a valid part of an overall treatment regime. I do not think anybody would dare hold it up as the panacea for all our ills and it cannot be relied upon as just a solution. Our approach on methadone is that it must be part of an overall package and the ultimate aim should be to get people drug free. We do not see it as a long-term solution to the problem but it has very valid and definite uses in the treatment of heroin addiction.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell A stabilising effect.

Mr. Duggan: Absolutely.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Is there any merit in the argument put to me that methadone can be very destructive of body tissue, teeth and internal organs?

Mr. Duggan: Not that we are aware. It is medically supervised.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Would Mr. Folan like to make a brief opening statement on the things the Department is doing right and the things it is admitting to doing wrong?

Mr. Folan: I do not know about the admission, Chairman. Following the committee’s examination of Vote 35 in January we provided a written report to the committee outlining the role of the Department in the national drugs strategy. I will briefly update the committee on that.

The Department’s role in the national drugs strategy is underpinned by one of the core objectives in our strategic plan which was to contribute to the development of the multi-agency integrated policies to deal with the drugs problem at national and local level. Central to this is our participation in the various multi-agency initiatives which are currently under way to address the drugs problem. The Department, the Garda Síochána and the Probation and Welfare Service are centrally involved. We are represented at assistant secretary and principal officer level on the national drugs strategy, the interdepartmental group and the National Drugs Strategy Team. Superintendent Eddie Rock from the Garda drugs squad represents the Garda Síochána and an assistant principal officer from the Department is also committed to it to a very large extent.

In terms of the 13 local drugs task forces, there is specific representation on each task force by the Garda Síochána, where an inspector from each area is involved. In terms of the Probation and Welfare Service, the local senior probation and welfare officer is involved. This involvement includes participation in the development, implementation and monitoring of the action plans being developed. This level of representation enables the Department to play a full role with the other agencies involved in the ongoing development of the national drugs strategy.

In relation to the practicalities of this strategy and, in particular, our involvement in the projects funded under Vote 35, we facilitate the transfer of funding from that Vote to 11 projects in the various local task force areas. Eight of these are facilitated by the Garda Síochána and three by the Probation and Welfare Service. Practically all of them are up and running and the details of the funding channelled to them were given in our written report to the committee in February. At that stage, approximately £90,000 of the £317,000 allocated was uncommitted. The level uncommitted at this stage is now down to around £36,000, of which £30,000 relates to one project for which plans are being drawn up. The project is going ahead and the plans are being developed.

The Department also funds a range of relevant projects, particularly the Garda youth diversion projects to which approximately £1.2 million was allocated this year under the Department’s Vote. Some of those projects have attracted funding from the money of the drugs task force. The Garda Síochána is heavily involved in these projects in conjunction with major youth organisations and local community groups. They operate mainly in the areas where there are difficulties in terms of social deprivation and young people’s involvement in drugs and crime.

These projects focus mainly on young people at risk of getting involved in the drugs and crime cycle. The advisory committees which help manage them are multi-agency in nature, with the involvement of the Garda, the Probation and Welfare Service, local interests, local voluntary youth organisations and, critically, representatives of local communities. There are approximately 24 projects operating at present. These projects are also under evaluation because we are conscious of that need. The current network is being evaluated in a project being carried out by the Children’s Research Centre, Trinity College, the results of which should be ready in the next month or so. The Probation and Welfare Service is also involved in a range of projects under the Department’s Vote, where approximately £4 million has been committed for 1999.

The Garda Síochána is forcefully targeting the supply side of the problem. In that context, the Garda national drugs unit operations, some of which involve Customs and the Naval Service, yielded very significant drug seizures in 1998, with a notional street value in excess of £90 million. In 1998, the various Garda operations, Dóchas, Clean Street and Main Street, yielded seizures of heroin and other controlled substances with a notional street value in the region of £5.6 million and resulted in the arrests of more than 10,500 people for drug offences.

Another aspect of the drug strategy, of which the committee is probably aware, is the treatment of drug abusers in prisons. The Department recently agreed a joint strategy with the Department of Health and Children on the treatment of drug users in the prison system. That joint strategy is based on the principle of equivalence of treatment for drug misusers inside and outside prison. A draft action plan was recently approved by the Minister in this area which builds on the strategy agreed with the Department of Health and Children and the Eastern Health Board. A copy of that action plan is available for the information of Members. It sets out clearly the preventative policy in stopping drugs getting into prisons and deals with the medical policy element.

Another initiative in the general drugs area is that of the pilot drugs court project which should be under way later this year. That system is regarded as a policy initiative which will mark a realignment of the response of the criminal justice system to those involved in less serious drug related offences. The drug courts will give people who are in trouble with the law on foot of having committed minor or non-violent drug related offences an opportunity to be treated under court supervision as an alternative to the more usual penal sanctions. It is hoped this venture will offer addicts a chance to turn their lives around to a co-ordinated regime of treatment, rehabilitation and monitoring.

I reaffirm the Department’s commitment to the implementation of the multi-agency policies being pursued under the drugs strategy and, in particular, the implementation of the practical schemes and services being funded under the Vote 35 financial allocation to the local drugs task forces. My colleagues and I will be glad to facilitate the committee on any questions you may have.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Thank you. Before we begin questions will Mr. Lonergan shed some light on the perception that prisons are full of drugs and the myths as to how they get into prisons? How do drugs get into prisons?

Mr. Lonergan: If I knew how drugs get into prisons they would not be there. One of the difficulties is that we do not always know when this is happening. The perception that the prison is afloat with drugs is false to some degree. Equally, it is true that illicit drugs get into prison. Sometimes they are smuggled in during visits. People swallow the drugs and conceal them in different ways. A prisoner wanted to see a doctor and it was discovered that she had three sachets of heroin pushed so far up her nose that she had to be brought to the Mater Hospital to retrieve them. It is a regular occurrence for a doctor to be prohibited by the prisoner from carrying out an internal examination because she might have drugs concealed in private parts of her body. It is known that men do the same.

The prevention of drugs entering the prison is a very complex issue. The latest statistics that we have were researched by Dr. Paul O’Mahoney in 1996. He discovered that 67 per cent of prisoners would have had a history of heroin abuse. About half of these prisoners were drug free in prison while they rest were active in so far as they could be active. Some of these prisoners told him they got some drugs every day, other prisoners said they got them once or twice a week and a large number of them said they got drugs sporadically or whenever they were available. It is very difficult to know how much drugs are being brought into the prison.

We have noticed - and people who work with drug addicts will notice - an improvement in the physical wellbeing of all drug addicts upon their release from prison. For example, they all gain weight and they look a lot better. I can see a very significant change in the physical and emotional wellbeing of people within three weeks after entering prison because they get rest, basic medical care, good food and an element of care that they would not get on the outside. However, I do not want to mislead the committee into thinking that it is not a massive problem. After overcrowding, drug addiction is the single biggest challenge and frustration for prison management.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell How many prisoners enter prison drug free and leave it as drug addicts?

Mr. Lonergan: A tiny percentage. Dr. O’Mahoney found in his study of 120 prisoners that only six of them said they had been introduced to cannabis or heroin during their stay in prison. I know that 99 per cent of the drug addicts were addicted when they arrived at the prison gate. However, it is understandable that an individual will be introduced to drugs in a negative environment such as a prison but the same can happen on the outside. The danger of people being introduced to drugs is one of the most minor difficulties in the system. A large number of drug addicts use prison - and openly admit it - to get their act together. We have not found the complete answer yet but prisons can be both positive and negative.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Is there any evidence that they are getting their act together in prison? There is a lot of recidivism. How many people have got off drugs in prison?

Mr. Lonergan: This is a very complex issue. Prisoners can be drug free for many years but upon release they can relapse and become addicted again. Drug addicts, like any other person with an addiction, can be drug free for a long time. I know hundreds of people who have spent a long time in prison drug free but they are not cured of their addiction. For example, a prisoner could be drug free for one year and can prove it with negative urine tests but if they receive bad news such as a broken relationship, that their child is sick, that a parent has died or some incident happens in prison, the first thing they will do to get relief is to go back on drugs or to try to get them.

The other problem we have is that we do not have adequate research to tell us how long people stay off drugs when they are released. No follow-up research has been done on them. Many people leave prison only to return and some of them are addicted to drugs on their return. This is a very complex issue. Unless extensive research is carried out nobody will be able to give an accurate figure for the rate of drug addiction.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty Mr. Lonergan has given an interesting presentation. What methods are adopted in prison to prevent drugs being passed by visitors to prisoners?

Mr. Lonergan: In recent years we have raised the barrier placed between prisoners and their visitors to 30 inches. At present it is more difficult but not impossible for them to make contact. We systematically search and monitor people. When people are found to pass any contraband during a visit - sometimes we cannot prove whether a drug or a sweet has been smuggled - the prisoner is dealt with on the basis of a disciplinary court. In many cases they would be awarded screened visits for a period, either indefinitely or for a shorter period. The severity of the offence depends on who the visitor was and sometimes the visitor is banned. If the drugs are found on the person and we can prove it the Garda is called. However, in most cases we are unable to find the drugs that have been passed and we do not have the evidence to sustain a charge. On occasion both the prisoner and the visitor have been charged.

The smuggling of contraband into the prison is an ongoing battle. Visits are not the only time it takes place. Ninety per cent of prisoners are searched after visits but it is very difficult to find the drugs because they swallow them and then retrieve them in their cells. At present we need hard evidence. Even with my operational and administrative responsibilities as the Governor, to prove a charge against a fellow under the prison rules I must have evidence. Closed circuit television is very useful as evidence because it provides us with a photograph of the actual transaction of something passing between a prisoner and a visitor. It does not matter to me what it is as long as something is passed. This is an ongoing battle.

We know that when certain prisoners know when they are going to court or when they are going down or expect to be remanded in custody they will bring in internally a supply of drugs into the prison.

Overcrowding also inhibits our control of the situation. If two or three people are in a cell it will be a lot more difficult to control the activity among them. Single cell occupancy would be the ideal way to control this area. Segregation is a major issue in Mountjoy Prison. Overcrowding makes it is very difficult to separate very active drug addicts from those who are not. There are 770 males in the jail this week, over 300 more than ten years ago.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty With regard to additional powers that the Governor might use to prevent drug abuse would it require a very draconian system that would not be compatible with the type of prison he feels he should be running?

Mr. Lonergan: I run the prison in line with official State and ministerial policy. It is not my policy. Various Governments and Ministers over the years all subscribed to a humane system balanced with efforts to control security.

Another complexity involved is that many of the people forced to smuggle in drugs into the prison are not drug addicts. Almost every trustee job in Mountjoy had to be done away with because the trustees were being blackmailed to smuggle in drugs to active drug addicts. It is not simply a question of identifying active drug addicts - we suspect everyone because of the pressure that is put on them.

We have to find the balance between a humane regime and having a total obsession with security. Even with that I do not think we can totally prevent drug abuse. I know from my experience and through information available from around the world that no system, including some very rigid state systems in America, have successfully eliminated drugs from its prison population. I do not know of any country that can say they have drug free prisons.

The Chairman has already referred to who is responsible for the strength of addiction. I am not so sure we know who to blame for it. I do know that if a person is a chronic heroin addict they will do anything to get drugs. There is a difference between chronic heroin addiction and cannabis addiction. Chronic heroin addicts are not afraid of being punished. We can punish people for being in breach of the regulations by locking them up, depriving them of recreation and keeping them until the end of their sentence but it will not stop them if they need a drug.

A young woman prisoner returned after Christmas and her neck was badly injured. The reason she was in such a state was she could not find a vein in her hand or her leg so she was injecting into her neck. That indicates the level of self-inflicted damage a chronic drug addict will do to themselves to get a fix.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty That is a harrowing story. With regard to the incidence of suicide in prison, are many of the suicides drug related, be that through access or lack of it to drugs?

Mr. Lonergan: Sometimes deaths in prison are classified as suicide when they are not. Drug addicts sometimes overdose when they are in prison. They take a fix of heroin and their resistance may be reduced when they have not had some in a while and they die as a result. Often the public perception is that was a suicide. Often it is nothing other than an overdose, something which happens regularly on the outside. In the male section of Mountjoy Prison we have not had any suicides for a couple of years.

Many different factors contribute but I am sure drugs are a contributory factor. A number would be under serious threat in prison because they had failed to pay money or had got money to buy drugs and not delivered. They would know that they are being targeted. Some of them would suffer from depression. HIV and AIDS are factors - sometimes when they see something coming on they may link with AIDS and it would be a factor which would motivate them to commit or attempt suicide. I am certain that the drug culture is a contributory factor in some suicide attempts.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty By what number is Mountjoy Prison overcrowded at the moment?

Mr. Lonergan: In my opinion it would be comfortable with 500 people. When I took over as Governor of Mountjoy Prison in 1984 the daily average was 434. Regularly for the last nine months our numbers have run between 750 and 775. That puts it into perspective. We have 300 to 350 more than we should have in the ideal. That means many people are accommodated in bunk beds in single cells.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty What is the statistic for that?

Mr. Lonergan: About 50 per cent are in single cells which are doubled. Another 100 reside on mattresses on the floor.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty Many of these people, if I take the point made by Fr. Cassin, come from socially and economically deprived areas, the basis for social deprivation. It is peculiar that a presumption could be drawn from today’s meeting that socially and economically deprived areas exist only in Dublin and Cork. I make the point Deputy Rabbitte made. He was right when he interpreted that the situation in parts of Roscommon is totally different from the situation in his constituency in Dublin. Nevertheless there are seriously socially and economically deprived areas outside of Dublin. I am familiar with such areas in my constituency.

Speaking to people like our witnesses and to social workers, it is clear the crisis exists on a smaller but equally horrific scale. Can anyone tell me what evaluation has been done in these areas? What are the effects of drugs like heroin, if any? What are the rates of detection by the Garda? Are any such persons from areas outside Dublin and Cork in prison?

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Mr. Tansey, do you have any breakdown on distribution? Could you tell us how the Probation and Welfare Service deals with people who are not criminals but drug addicts who commit crime to feed their habits?

Mr. Tansey: It is difficult to give a global picture of the position in areas mentioned by Deputy Doherty. There are always individual people who move around. They bring drugs back to their areas and involve younger people. I share the view, therefore, that in small areas there can be problems with individuals, which do not reflect the full picture in the area and would not be comparable to the situation in large urban areas, which have many of these problems of social and economic disadvantage with high unemployment rates. Unless we carry out systematic and consistent research on these matters it would be conjecture to try to determine the situation.

Nevertheless, it is a cause for concern on a national basis because drugs and drug addiction are not just confined to Dublin and its suburbs. Our experience in the Probation and Welfare Service is that there are areas in a number of towns in the State where it is becoming a significant problem and will become worse in the future unless we can work together to achieve the objective being discussed this morning.

If we take the Dublin area of the Probation and Welfare Service, at any one time 2,000 people are under supervision. An analysis of the situation in October of last year showed that 58 per cent of the crimes they caused were drug related. Officers working with the community have to work closely with all the agencies which are working dynamically and objectively with this problem and are often frustrated with the outcomes. Nevertheless, we use these agencies because the probation service is not a primary drug agency.

We recognise that a significant number of the people we deal with are addicted. We find, however, that quite a number of agencies, both statutory and non-statutory, achieve significant results. More and more people are becoming drug free. We believe our objective is to find many of these people who can be contained or who can move toward a methadone maintenance regime to become drug free. Many probation officers working with them have helped them achieve this. Of course, many do not succeed and return to their criminal ways to feed their habits.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty It appears that drugs and crime are inter-related and much drug abuse would not come to notice were it not for the fact that there are criminal activities associated with supply and demand.

Mr. Folan: A drugs culture obviously impacts directly on crime and vice versa. Some people are trying to make profit from the drugs culture and some are involved because they are trying to feed a habit. It generates a whole area of activity in crime and it is difficult to divorce the figures.

Many people focus on dealing with the preventative side and addiction. We must also focus on the supply side and those who are involved in purveying and distributing drugs and their networks.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty I am concerned that while the Garda and the probation service are doing a wonderful job and the prisons are doing all they can, one could describe what is being done in some areas and the money being offered, significant as it is in the context, as really no more than a fire brigade action. You are not dealing with some of the other difficulties at the root of the problem - that are not related to the activities of the Garda - maybe the probation service in some regards in relation to housing, job opportunities and education.

There is another culture of acceptance of designer drugs. Unless drug misuse is reflected in crime we do not seem to have any clear understanding of it. I am informed there is a considerable amount of misuse and abuse of drugs by people other than those we are targeting. This creates a culture of acceptability. From time to time one reads articles and hear debates suggesting that there should be legislation and different entitlements provided for certain types of drugs. If we are to handle this in a more realistic way, have we a plan or exercise adopted by all the bodies that obliges us to do more than just allocate money? I know task forces are necessary and all that is being done by the sectors represented here this morning is vital but what exactly needs to be done and where and how are we funding it? Has there been any co-ordinated effort to evaluate and assess the cost and the areas in which money must be expended? Can anybody deal with that?

Ms Hayes: There is an interdepartmental drugs group chaired by Mr. Haugh in my Department which has representatives from all the key Departments covering the areas mentioned, the Departments of the Environment and Local Government and Education and Science, FÁS, the Department of Health and Children and the Eastern Health Board. Up to now it has concentrated on giving back-up to the National Drugs Strategy Team in resolving the kinds of things Deputy Rabbitte might have had in mind - the fear that turf wars and different approaches might be the reason certain projects were not getting off the ground. The group has been concentrating on resolving different policy approaches across Departments to get a clear, single focus.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty How long has it been engaged in that?

Ms Hayes: The group was established in 1997 in the Department of the Taoiseach.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty Has it produced a document as yet?

Ms Hayes: No. It has concentrated on ensuring that the National Drugs Strategy Team and the drugs initiative are up and running and are fully evaluated. Part of its programme is to instigate a much broader review of the overall strategy taken by the State to dealing with the drugs problem.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty This is a matter of urgency, is it not?

Ms Hayes: It is.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty This does not need the co-operation of persons in the community or need premises in the community nor does it deal with planning permission. This strategy needs to be targeted and put in place to identify the solutions to the different problems. In the case of housing, education, social services and ensuring unemployment which has been endemic in many areas for generations, why do we not have something already established? Is anyone arguing for this and making the point that unless social deprivation is seriously tackled by way of major funding we will continue to have the same consequential effects? This morning while we are dealing with something in the region of £10 million, hundreds of millions of pounds are needed to do something in housing, education and other areas and we do not seem to have a plan. We have a talking shop. I mean no disrespect to the people involved but in the absence of something serious being placed in the public domain we do not seem to have a plan. Can anybody comment on that?

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell That is where the focus is. Will Superintendent Rock to tell us his perception and what can he report? Is there stabilisation of the drugs problem? Has it stopped growing or is it as bad as ever? What is the Garda plan and what is the perception of the Garda of what is needed which is not being done?

Mr. Rock: In so far as the Garda plan is concerned, I know that Operation Dóchas has been mentioned on many occasions. That would have been and was an overt policing strategy of high density policing in particular areas. We have moved on from that quite significantly. The Assistant Commissioner in Dublin is very conscious of deploying people in covert operations, and in a covert capacity, to deal with what is a significant problem of heroin dealing on the street. That is certainly paying dividends in the sense that we are arresting and charging and in 1998 there was an increase of about 50 per cent.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell That is 50 per cent of an increase on what?

Mr. Rock: People being caught dealing in heroin on the streets.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell It has increased by 50 per cent over 1997?

Mr. Rock: There has been almost a 50 per cent increase in commencement of prosecutions for all drug offences during 1998 as compared to the previous year. That certainly stems from covert policing activity in addition to Operation Dóchas. Likewise, we would have increases of heroin seizures of about 400 per cent. That, again, stems from targeting fairly major organised gangs. There are not many of them but there is one in particular which we have succeeded in taking down and from which we seized quite a significant amount of heroin. We have succeeded in charging some of that gang and some are still before the courts. From our perspective that is from where we are coming in relation to the heroin issue. I cannot say the situation is improving. It behoves us all to move forward with all our different strategies to bring a significant improvement. From the police perspective, we are succeeding and I know our Commissioner is very consciously deploying many more resources in this area than were deployed in the past.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell You say it is not improving. Is it getting worse?

Mr. Rock: It is very difficult for me to comment from my perspective. People are being arrested. Young people in particular areas of the city - particularly in the western part of the city in relation to our operations - are being found dealing with heroin. Quite a significant number of young females are found as well. About 25 per cent of those dealing with heroin at street level are female.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Is that a new development?

Mr. Rock: It is not new but we profiled 212 people at random dealing in heroin at street level recently and we found that of the 212 people profiled, 159 were male and 53 female. Of the 159 males, 90 had previous convictions and 15 of the 53 females had previous convictions. Quite a significant number of them were under 20 years of age. We are talking about very young people being involved.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Under what age?

Mr. Rock: Under 20 years of age.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell 50 per cent?

Mr. Rock: From the total of 212, 57 males and 26 females were under 20 years of age.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Eighty three, or approximately one third, were under 20 years of age.

Deputy Doherty: Information on Seán Doherty Zoom on Seán Doherty From what sort of homes did they come?

Mr. Folan: I do not have full information in relation to employment and unemployment. It is my experience that a significant number of them are unemployed.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Does Mr. Folan have responsibility for the Garda in the Department?

Mr. Folan: I do.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Anecdotally, it appears there has been a significant improvement in recent times in terms of the policing of this problem. Does Mr. Folan accept there are still people going out at night, taking the law into their own hands and sorting out his problem - as they would see it - in certain communities in Dublin anyway?

Mr. Folan: I do not have information on that for the Deputy. I might ask Superintendent Rock to deal with specific aspects of that. We are all very concerned and opposed to the idea of anyone taking the law into their own hands in this particular area at any level within the community.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Before Superintendent Rock comes in, is Mr. Folan saying he has no information on vigilante activity anywhere in this town at the moment?

Mr. Folan: I do not have specific information in front of me.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I know that, but do you know what is going on? Do you know the problem to which I refer?

Mr. Folan: I am aware of it.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte It seems to me the Garda are hard pressed in certain areas to respond to the level of demand from local communities. Does that feature in Mr. Folan’s planning with the Garda Commissioner in terms of the negative consequences of people taking into their own hands policing of their own areas?

Mr. Folan: The Garda from Garda management down is working with all these local initiatives, across such areas as the integrated services process, to develop strong links in terms of community policing and community links. It is engaging in areas where there may have been suggestions that there were elements of this sort of activity. Strong links have been and are being developed with the community in these areas. Superintendent Rock could elaborate further on that.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Is Mr. Folan aware that, for example, there have been public meetings - perhaps orchestrated but nonetheless public meetings - where it has been alleged that the vacuum in policing has led to this vigilante activity which is having an extremely negative effect on the communities on which it is inflicted?

Mr. Folan: Yes, we aware these allegations have been made. People will make claims about a vacuum to justify the approaches or aims they are trying to promote. There would be an absolute clinical line in the Garda Síochána and the departmental response to that. It would be completely unacceptable and would be dealt with. The Garda is focusing very strongly on the community links and has done so all along. Particularly in those areas, there are many developments in terms of developing links with the community and community forums and in terms of this sort of direct contact under the umbrella of all of these initiatives.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Has there been any acceptance, within the Department and in Mr. Folan’s discussions with the Garda Commissioner, of the separateness of this problem? Does the typical Garda Superintendent in a region have any resource allocation to respond to the areas which are the focus of the drugs task forces?

In the terms of Deputy Dennehy’s earlier question, the drugs task forces have selected themselves in terms of the numbers presenting for treatment and the extent of the problem. There is no mystery. However in policing terms, is there any acknowledgement of that? Does a Garda Superintendent stuck in the middle of one of these areas get any allocation to respond to the community? For example, is extension of the concept of community policing being contemplated?

Mr. Folan: The Commissioner has the issue of community policing under review at the moment. There are many consultations taking place with community groups and within the Garda on how to advance community policing. Regarding those areas, I mentioned earlier that in each local task force an inspector is assigned to the task force and works very closely with it. Community gardaí are assigned to work on all of these projects. I mentioned the Integrated Services Project. Community gardaí are particularly focused towards that. In any of these areas I would presume the local superintendent would have a very strong focus on these kinds of activities and would take the commitment of resources to those very seriously. Obviously the Garda must have regard to the resources available. However the resources are focused significantly in terms of community policing.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Has any work been done in the Department on the economics of all of this? We heard from Fr. Cassin earlier and personally I accept his analysis, the central point being the link between disadvantage and drug abuse. The first report by the ministerial task force accepted that too. The £10 million was allocated to support the work of the task forces, not to abolish poverty. Fr. Cassin has shown himself to be effortlessly capable of taking over from any accounting officer who appears before us in answering a question about the abolition of poverty rather than the £10 million to support the drugs task forces. However we will leave that aside for the moment.

He has a serious point, taken in conjunction with Mr. Lonergan’s contribution. If 67 per cent of prisoners have a track record of heroin abuse and if the average number of his inmates is between 715 and 775, say 750, 67 per cent of prisoners is 500. That means there are 500 heroin addicts in Mountjoy Prison. Has the Department carried out any work in terms of the cost of that compared to the use of those resources for the purposes for which Fr. Seán Cassin would argue?

Mr. Folan: I do not have before me figures or statistics on that and I am not sure. I could come back to the committee with a note on that. However we are crystal clear on the issue in terms of crime and the impact of drugs. We do not just see it as a pure justice issue. That is the reason we are so heavily involved in the multi-agency approach with the other Departments. We are also represented on the interdepartmental group to which Ms Hayes referred. In addition, the Minister is on the Cabinet committee on drugs and social inclusion where it is probably broader than what we are discussing today.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Would Mr. Folan be kind enough to, in his own time, let us have a note on this? Fr. Seán Cassin has raised an important point in terms of the policy making——

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell You are getting very much to the centre of this committee’s concern, that is, the economic cost of the crime problem. If we do not do anything what does it cost us? If we spend some money on it successfully would we save money? In a nutshell, that is what we are trying to quantify.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte That is my point and perhaps Mr. Folan will come back to us on that.

Various agencies have availed of the money through the task forces to buttress their programmes and so on. Will Mr. Lonergan say if Mountjoy received any money from the task forces?

Mr. Lonergan: It has not received money directly. The prison system operates on the basis that central funding and central policy are decided by the Minister and the Department. As a result, I am not aware of any direct approaches being made.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The Eastern Health Board also does, for example. However the Eastern Health Board manages to link into this and avail of moneys that were there. Given the extent of need in Mountjoy and that we have this money, one wonders whether it should not be plugged into.

Mr. Lonergan: I am not aware that a lack of money is the problem in Mountjoy. For instance, everybody concerned or involved would be aware that we need drug counsellors in Mountjoy as a very basic response. For various reasons and mainly because they are not available - as far as I am aware the Eastern Health Board has not adequate numbers of drug counsellors to second to the prison - we do not have any. It is not a matter of funding for us to provide that.

The second major issue would be accommodation. We certainly need adequate accommodation and that is now in the pipeline. When that comes on stream it will I hope eliminate the problem of overcrowding if the numbers in prison do not increase.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I appreciate that. I appreciate Mr. Lonergan’s difficulties. I do not want to weary the committee by going down that road.

On the training of counsellors, one has had requests from people in the community who, because of their experience working at the coal face, have sought assistance in becoming counsellors. I believe Mr. Duggan’s committee has assisted some of those?

Mr. Duggan: That is correct.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Does Mr. Duggan have any kind of programme? Whatever about blockages in the economy because of the absence of computer engineers, it is remarkable if we cannot provide counsellors to Mr. Lonergan who stated it is not a problem of money. There are people out there who want to become addiction counsellors and work with this problem. Is that a priority of the committee?

Mr. Duggan: It is indeed. Trinity College, for example, turns out a certain number of counsellors every year. In the past two years we have doubled the number it produces. Merchants Quay, in association with University College, Dublin, has started another course to train addiction counsellors. Maynooth College is also running courses to train addiction counsellors. In addition, through the task forces, we have funded a number of projects.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Could Mr. Duggan send us a note on what is coming on stream in that area? Mr. Lonergan says there is no follow up at all and that once drug addicts leave him, they go back into the community. Whether they go back to drugs or whether they have never been clean in the first place, there is no follow up care of which he is aware.

Mr. Lonergan: In a huge number of cases.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell What does the Probation and Welfare Service do in cases like that? Does it do anything? Is the baton passed? Does it assist former prisoners after their release?

Mr. Tansey: On a national basis, about 10 per cent accept voluntary supervision. The vast majority who leave prison have served their sentences and want to go back into the community they came from. Intervention is not acceptable to them. If they are released before the due date of sentence on a pre-planned programme, they are receptive and responsive to intervention by the probation service.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I interrupted Governor Lonergan, unintentionally. What were you saying?

Mr. Lonergan: I was making the point about treatment and follow up. At the moment, even though we are in the process of trying to initiate it, we do not have personal development programmes for the huge number of prisoners who are released. A fundamental part of what Deputy Rabbitte is talking about concerns having a personal development strategy with each prisoner very early in a sentence, and planning his or her ultimate release. At the moment we do not plan any release, the system is operated on an ad hoc basis. Some people are just released out into the cold of the night and there is nothing in place for them.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Are many of them likely to come back because of that lack of management?

Mr. Lonergan: Of course. Everything they had coming in, they have going out, and maybe more.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Where does the pilot drugs court stand now, Mr. Folan?

Mr. Folan: The planning group has been set up and its target is to have a project developed towards the latter part of the summer ready to run in the Dublin area.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Is the probation service able to cope with that, Mr. Tansey? The evidence given to the ministerial task force was that we did not need to establish a drugs court, that we effectively have them because that is the through-put. The probation service is severely strained in terms of its capacity to cope.

Mr. Tansey: If the drugs court is introduced, our current staffing would not allow us to become directly involved in it. The Deputy will be aware that the Minister established a review group on the probation service, which has produced its first report. The Minister has made a submission to the Minister for Finance concerning the funding and development of the service in relation to the staffing requirements which were set out in the recommendations of that report. If they come on stream the service will be in a very strong position to operate within the drugs court, but at the present time it would not be able to do so.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Would the drugs court require legislation?

Mr. Tansey: The recommendations in the commission report on the drugs court, as I understand them, are that they will operate within the meaning of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977, as amended in 1984. There are provisions in that legislation which would enable the drugs court to operate under sections 27 and 28 of the Act.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Will the courts be able to make treatment orders instead of imposing prison sentences?

Mr. Tansey: They will, under both those Acts.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell So new legislation will not be necessary, is that right, Mr. Folan?

Mr. Folan: As far as I am aware, and I will clarify this later for the committee, it will be done on the basis outlined by Mr. Tansey.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell New legislation is not envisaged. The Denham report on the drugs court is compelling reading. The suggestion that this is the way to go is very persuasive.

Mr. Folan: Yes.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell With no ifs or buts, the report says there would be substantial savings in public funds if we were to do this. In other words, if the drugs court made treatment orders rather than imposing prison sentences, it would be hospitalising people rather than imprisoning them. Is that the policy your Department is now definitely pursuing?

Mr. Folan: That is the direction in which we are going. A pilot project will be run first and that is why the planning committee has been set up. The pilot project will map the route for us. We expect that to get going in late summer.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Mr. Tansey said, and it bears out what I hear from probation officers, that his service would not be able to cope with that. These things are not simple and I am not pretending they are. However, will we be here again in two years time saying we are now getting the probation service up to capacity in terms of being able to take on this extra workload? There is a genuine concern among this committee - and it has nothing to do with party allegiance or anything else - about the urgency that has to be focused on this problem.

Perhaps Superintendent Rock should say something about the extent of crime in this city - I am not dismissing Roscommon or anywhere else, but it is the area I know best - that derives from drug abuse, drug dealing and drug trafficking. If we are to produce some kind of report on this matter, I submit that it will come down to the economics of tackling the root causes that lead to drug abuse. It is an enormous cost on the Exchequer. Perhaps Superintendent Rock or Mr. Folan can tell us how much it costs to keep a prisoner in Mountjoy for a year, not taking into account how much it costs to catch him, put him through the courts and have the probation service advise him? It is the economic question that matters at the end of the day.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Will the Department of Finance representative say whether any study has been done on the overall costs of the drugs problem? What is the cost to the economy and to the Exchequer now?

Mr. Geoghegan: I do not deal directly with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform Vote. I deal with the Vote of the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation. However, I can endeavour to get that information from my colleagues and will revert to the committee on it.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Have any studies been done on this question?

Ms Hayes: Not recent ones that I am aware of.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell So we do not know what it costs, although we can guess that it costs a great deal of money.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Maybe Superintendent Rock wants to say something on that matter.

Mr. Rock: In general, there were about 20,000 detected crimes two years ago and the figure is probably about the same now. Some 7,500 people were arrested and of those about 43 per cent or 3,365 were drug addicts. That gives an idea of what we are talking about. According to our research, those addicts were responsible for about 66 per cent of detected crime. That provides some correlation between people addicted to drugs and the crime problem. Our research was conducted about 18 months ago.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan We are all impressed by that figure of 66 per cent and it underlines the frustration some of us feel. We see a large group of people before us but we do not see clear leadership in terms of a concentration of resources. Has the creation of the Criminal Assets Bureau helped in terms of the detection rates in taking on major drug criminals? In terms of the bureaucratic make-up and running of Government policy on drugs, is something of that order required now as well?

After the killing of Veronica Guerin we made the huge psychological jump to take on the major drug criminals through the law by giving the Garda Síochána the powers they required. However, that psychological jump has not occurred at bureaucratic or policy making level.

Mr. Rock: All those initiatives, including the national drugs strategy initiative, create avenues for us because they have helped to reduce vigilantism. We have more resources available because of that to target our core mandate. The Criminal Assets Bureau is of enormous benefit because it is tackling the root source of the drug industry, which is money. I would prefer to pass the bureaucratic aspects of the Deputy’s comments on to Mr. Folan.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan Would it be better if Mr. Duggan was deployed full-time rather than part-time as chairman of the National Drugs Strategy Team? Would there be a verifiably better result? Is it desirable for the team to have a part-time chairman while at the same time having an interdepartmental group working on the drugs strategy? Presumably the team deals with elements of policy while the interdepartmental group deals with another aspect of the drugs problem. It appears to give rise to duplication.

Mr. Duggan: The focus of my work today with regard to the National Drugs Strategy Team has been to deal with the local drugs task forces and the implementation of the strategies they have developed for their specific areas. The question of overall co-ordination is being looked at in the context of the interdepartmental group Ms Hayes referred to earlier. It is intended that this group would proceed to deal with an approach to the overall drugs strategy. Hitherto the emphasis has been on dealing with the local drugs task forces, the implementation and development of their plans and so on.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan Is it the intention of the bureaucracy and policy makers to concentrate power in terms of concentrating the initiatives to be taken on preventing drug addiction? Is it to be concentrated in the National Drugs Strategy Team or in the Department? Is there to be a focus for the positive energies that exist here?

Ms Hayes: The important point to remember is that the National Drugs Strategy Team is dealing with an initiative that is being used to test and pilot a different approach to trying to deal with the drug problem. The question as to what will evolve as a result of that initiative depends on the evaluation and whether the projects and approaches appear to work. Evaluation has been structured into each of the projects and much money has been put into monitoring them and into keeping tabs on how they are progressing at a micro level that the Department would not normally be involved with.

Following from Mr. Duggan’s work will be a series of lessons. The larger, wider group, the interdepartmental drug group, will look at what principles are worth picking up from that initiative. They may have an impact on processes, on the way that delivery of support for drug addicts is managed, structured and located. The two are linked but they work in sequence and I would not make any assumptions as to whether the National Drug Strategy Team or the drugs initiative is the best for dealing with it.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan Is it the intention that, in an ideal world, the interdepartmental working group will cease to function and be replaced by an appropriate structure to tackle the drug problem or will it continue to operate?

Ms Hayes: We see it continuing for some time because its main emphasis is on picking up the lessons from the drugs initiative and co-ordinating and developing policies in the individual Departments and to put a single focus on those policies if possible. On the other question of Mr. Duggan’s part-time role with regard to chairing the drugs strategy team, as a relatively new Department to this area I believe it is a most useful way of developing a new approach because he is able to maintain his contact with mainstream services and keep himself up to date on what is happening in the broad area of the health services in relation to drugs and at the same time manage a new approach. It is a good way of dealing with the matter. There are also other members of the team who make the same part-time input. Collectively it is a good way of doing things. They are not isolated because they manage to straddle the two streams of service delivery.

Deputy Gildea: Information on Thomas Gildea Zoom on Thomas Gildea During his initial address Governor Lonergan said a number of drug users use prison to get their act together. Does this not indicate that the policy of countering the drug problem is failing?

Ms Quigley: I am from City Wide Drugs Crisis Campaign, which is a network of community and voluntary organisations from across Dublin. We are involved in trying to deal with the drugs issue in local communities. My three colleagues are very involved in their local areas and task forces. Tony McCarthy is involved with the canal’s task force in Rialto and is involved in working on the drugs issue in Rialto. Mary Ellen McCann is involved with the Ballymun task force and has worked for many years on the drugs issue in Ballymun. Séamus McDonagh is from the Blanchardstown task force and has had years of experience working in his local community.

On the issue of public investment and public spending, I wish to comment on how money has been spent to date in the communities with which we are concerned and what should and needs to be different about the way task force money is spent, which is crucial. The question was asked if we have any way of counting the cost to the economy of not dealing with the drugs issue. While we do not have information on that, we have enormous, indeed too much, evidence about the cost to communities of neglecting the drugs issue for so many years. The context in which the current initiative of the task forces are trying to operate has been shaped by those years of neglect and the devastating effects this has had on local communities and their infrastructures. It would be impossible for me to overstate the effects of that neglect on communities.

Some may not be aware that in 1983 a task force report was presented to the then Government, but it was not published. It said more or less the same things as the 1996 report and made the same recommendations. If action had been taken then, 13 years previously, we probably would not be in the situation we are in today. It is important to state that the level of damage and rehabilitation of communities from the drugs problem is enormous and has a huge impact on the work the task forces are trying to do.

All the task force areas are designated as disadvantaged. One of the key issues to arise is education. We must invest in education to enable young people participate in society, get jobs, etc. The task force money is being spent on communities which, by and large, have practically no participation in third level education. There are very high drop-out rates from second level education and high levels of young people leaving school without education. This is the means by which our society is equipping people with the skills and competence to participate and become employed. There are also very high unemployment rates in these areas so people are not getting the chance of the work experience to develop management skills and so on.

The outcome of this is that over the years, the services within those communities have been planned, managed and developed by people from outside. That is not to question the commitment of such people, but it is saying that, hitherto, State money has not been invested in developing the skills of the people within their communities. That is a key issue about task force money and about how task force money is being spent: it is trying to change that. It is not just about services - obviously they are needed and are very important - but it is also about trying to change the way State money is spent so that there is a start to investing in people within local communities to enable them become involved in planning, developing, managing and delivering services within their own areas. That is key to what the task forces are about. It is more complex than spending money.

From our years of experience, if the State is to tackle this issue seriously it needs to invest massively in the kind of community development which is required to compensate communities. Nobody has ever questioned that large education budgets are justifiable. That is accepted. Community development is a way of trying to compensate communities which have missed out on educational expenditure. That needs to be seriously taken on board. I have a feeling that we are trying to wash the baby when the tap is hardly turned on and there is a trickle of water, and that we are sitting here discussing the trickle when what we should be doing is trying to discuss how we fill up the bath so that we can wash the child properly.

The issue of how money has or has not been spent to date and how task force money needs to be spent differently is a key issue. That is something of which we want the committee to be aware.

Deputy Bell: Information on Michael Bell Zoom on Michael Bell On the evaluation of services, earlier it was stated that a large number of drug abusers are unemployed. That report shows clearly that 88 per cent of those admitted were unemployed but the figures for 1996, 1997 and 1998 on page 19 of the Cuan Mhuire report are startling. Of 149 admissions in 1995-96, 67 per cent were male. I assume that “3 per cent” is a typographical error because 49 of the admissions were female. The percentage of admissions which were men shifted from 67 per cent to 49 per cent in 1997. In 1998, the percentage of admissions which were men fell again to 38 per cent. Is this an indication that women are more likely to take these detoxification programmes or is it simply that the level of drug abuse among women has increased substantially?

Are the City Wide staff, who perform a wonderful service for the community, put at risk in terms of threats from criminal interests, drug distributors and drug barons because of their work on behalf of the community?

Ms Quigley: On the last question about risk, the people who have been working for years in the community are at far greater risk from complete burnout at the frustration from years trying to deal with the lack of support to address these issues. One of the things which causes so much frustration within communities is that every few years we are presented with another two or three year programme with a certain amount of money which is supposed to solve problems which are endemic in our society without any real attempt to address the underlying issues. The simple answer is that the greatest danger to community activities is burnout and frustration from trying to deal with such a difficult issue.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell As community representatives, what is the most urgent thing that needs to be done? What is the biggest gap in the services?

Mr. McDonagh: Information on Jarlath McDonagh Zoom on Jarlath McDonagh Fifty-one per cent of the population of Blanchardstown is under 25. There are very few treatment facilities in the Blanchardstown area. One thing the task force did was bring community, voluntary and statutory groups together to focus on the drugs issue.

We all know the story of the James Connolly Memorial Hospital. At times hysterical reaction was provoked which was helped by opportunist politicians.

Our need is to get treatment into our community. By treatment, I mean the treatment of the drugs issue in a holistic manner. We need prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

Mr. Lonegan spoke about young peoplecoming out of jail clean of drugs and I have experience of this. They come back into our community but we have no facility to help them. I am not talking just about the probation service. Obviously the young people want to come back to the community of their families, neighbours and relations. There is not even a drop-in centre in our community to facilitate that.

I welcome the task force and the youth facility fund, which is a great boost to usin the community, but if communities areto plan to tackle the problem they need tobe able to plan for the long-term. The drugs problem has been with us for many yearsand it will be with us for many years to come. We need continuous funding, buildings, facilities and professional people to work in our areas.

Ms McCann: To add to what Mr. McDonagh said, a major issue for the Youth Action Project in Ballymun where I work is consistency of funding. Earlier training in education carried on in communities was mentioned. The group I work for was to the fore in promoting some of that training in education. If I can use that as an example, we run a community addiction studies course one morning a week for 20 weeks. It is not a long course but it has a huge impact on people’s perceptions and attitudes and on humanising the drug problem. Our follow-up research shows that it equips people to be more confident in dealing with it in their communities. It helps them to have more positive attitudes.

That course is more than a course; it is a whole process. Consistently, we are asked for a follow-up to it. People come back looking for more. They have ideas about how they could contribute now, but they need more support, training, education and supervision. We find it extremely difficult to provide that because we do not have the necessary funding and we do not have the structures.

I have one community worker on my staff. Even though we have other people working there who work on client work and education, that is the reality. When people ask us for help to do something now and to provide more education and training, we do our best but it is not consistent.

Training in education is an issue in other parts of Dublin. Other communities came to Ballymun to do that course and then wanted it in their own communities. There is not a mechanism to fund that project across Dublin. Consistency and being able to build on the outcome of the programmes we run is one of the issues.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell These courses are a form of personal development.

Ms McCann: Yes.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I noted that Governor Lonergan said the same thing. There is a lack of personal development courses for the prisoners.

Mr. McCarthy: I will list four priorities. First, I re-emphasis the point of community building and capacity building in the community as crucial. It is the first principle which must be built on. That goes without saying.

What happened here this morning may be symptomatic of what has been going wrong for years. Everybody has been talking about the community and community needs. Ideally we should have started the ball rolling this morning by saying exactly what we experience.

Strategic integration is another important thing which has been mentioned here. That takes time and effort. It will not happen overnight but unless we achieve it, we will not go anywhere.

All the task forces emphasised as a problem the extent to which the statutory bodies, which are members of the task forces, come with power from their Departments. To what extent are the task forces just added work or to what extent are they there able to make decisions and bring them back? That is a big gap which needs to be addressed, and hopefully it will be.

Third, on treatment and rehabilitation, there have been improvements. The new protocol is good but has also been a victim of its own success to some extent. Some bogus doctors have been removed and there are new procedures for registration. However, because of this new procedure and increased garda activity on the ground, people cannot get heroin so easily and this is causing a great deal of hassle. They are coming to us and the treatment lists are growing.

Fourth, the supply side is crucial. We have spoken about individuals who are addicted. However, we must also mention the morale of communities all over the city who cannot live their lives and raise their kids normally. It is a constant struggle for these communities to get the protection they need.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I welcome Mr. Seán Quinn, principal officer in the Department of the Environment and Local Government, and Mr. Kinch. The question of the improvement of community facilities and the community environment was raised, as well as the fact that as treatment becomes available, more addicts than expected have emerged. I see that the witnesses agree. Has anyone facts and figures? What is the estimated number of heroin addicts? It is much greater than was expected a year or two ago?

Ms Quigley: It is probably the same figure. The most recent study done was by Dr. Catherine Cumiskey for the Department of Health and Children and I think it is based on 1996 figures. The total number of opiate users in the Dublin area was 13,460.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Is that all opiates?

Ms Quigley: Opiates are generally heroin or methadone. Dr. Cumiskey used opiates as this includes those on methadone programmes who are no longer actively using heroin but would have been heroin users. The figure of 13,460 is an estimate as in these cases one cannot give absolute figures. We suggest that when looking at this number, you multiply it by at least five for the immediate family, perhaps at least ten for the extended family, and you get a picture of the number of people seriously affected.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Would you agree with those figures Mr. Duggan?

Mr. Duggan: Yes, Dr. Cumiskey came up with that figure which she based on three sources of information - those in treatment, information available to gardaí by way of arrests, etc., and hospital in-patient figures.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Is this in the Dublin or the Eastern Health Board area?

Mr. Duggan: In the Dublin area.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Dublin city and county?

Mr. Duggan: Yes, it was based on 1996 data. On top of that, the number seeking treatment at any stage is roughly between 6,000 and 7,000.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell When treatment is mentioned, is it in-patient treatment, outpatient treatment or both? Is there a need for more residential places?

Ms McCann: At community level, we need combinations of all those. We need in-patient places, outpatient, day care and different kinds of programmes for different groups. We know from research that there is no one treatment which benefits everyone. However, a combination of different kinds of treatment can have great benefit across the board.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell We know there are queues for treatment in many parts of the Eastern Health Board area, people who want to get out of their areas and into residential or detoxification programmes and while they are waiting they commit crimes. Is that not the reality?

Ms Quigley: Yes. It has been said that all the existing treatment services have waiting lists. Mr. McCarthy mentioned the protocolumn Before the protocol, some of the waiting lists had more or less gone. However, the protocol has effectively made it far more difficult for people to obtain methadone on the streets and so many who are using have come forward who did not do so before. All existing services have waiting lists. Obviously if they have waiting lists, it means people are not receiving treatment, they are using heroin and probably committing crimes.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell There is money which has not been spent. Is there an easy way of cutting these lists?

Ms Quigley: Cutting waiting lists is easy; they were more or less gone before the protocolumn Cutting waiting lists in itself is not a major issue. The introduction of the protocol has caused an immediate need for numbers to be increased - and that needs to happen as quickly as possible. The main issue is not about numbers and putting people on a programme to say they have been dealt with, but about the kind of treatment which is offered to people and, once they come off a waiting list and on to treatment, it offers them a realistic chance of dealing with their drug addiction.

Everybody wants to see waiting lists cut and I know the health board will discuss this in the afternoon. However, in the community there is a serious concern that cutting waiting lists is seen as an end in itself. Cutting waiting lists simply means that someone’s name is gone from a waiting list on to a programme. However, the issue of the quality of programmes and dealing with why people are using drugs is just as important.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Are the treatment programmes adequate and helpful?

Ms Quigley: Obviously treatment at the moment is not adequate. I cannot speak for the health board but I think even it would agree. Treatment is inadequate in a number of ways. Ms McCann already mentioned the need for a range of options. Addiction is extremely complicated and there is not one approach which will work for everyone. One needs a range of treatments, which we do not have at the moment. In terms of the crisis which we have allowed happen, because of neglect for years - and we have dealt with this on a crisis footing in recent years - the priority has been to get people stabilised on methadone.

There is a positive side to that as there are cases where being on methadone has improved people’s lives; however methadone is not a treatment service. Anyone receiving methadone also needs a range of back-up support services - after-care, rehabilitation and retraining are part of the treatment. When we talk about treatment that is what we mean. That certainly is not there at the moment. We have an emergency service developing from a crisis. Nobody should be surprised at that as that is what happens if there have been years of neglect.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I hope you will be able to stay for the afternoon session.

Ms Quigley: Yes.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I will now deal with some issues from the point of view of the Department of the Environment and Local Government. Community development and the environment in communities is one aspect for which this Department is responsible. The other is the housing Acts, where families are being evicted because of anti-social behaviour by some members of the household. Often, the first they know of this is the notice to quit rather than an offer of treatment or counselling. Are these matters being considered in the Department of the Environment and Local Government?

Mr. Quinn: Yes. We have supplied a statement of the report to the committee; Members can inform us if they require particular information.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Perhaps you can summarise the situation as briefly as possible.

Mr. Quinn: We are involved on an inter-agency basis with the various committees mentioned earlier, the interdepartmental committee and the National Drugs Strategy Team. At local authority level, there are representatives who are contributing in a meaningful way to local task forces. We keep in touch with them. Mr. Kinch is a member of the National Drugs Strategy Team. Servicing the task force is onerous on some of the local authorities, particularly Dublin Corporation. They have assigned a member of staff to co-ordinate their input into this initiative.

As far as our Department is concerned, the estate improvement programme was a specific allocation of funds which went into local initiatives which we funded through the local authorities. That £3 million was fully allocated. We are also involved in other initiatives mentioned earlier, either directly through the Department or through local authorities. We recognise the Chairman’s point regarding local authority estates and flat complexes which have been identified with illegal drugs and anti-social behaviour. This has been a matter of concern to ourselves and local authorities for some time. While the majority of estates are good places to live, there are obviously serious problems in a number of others.

In our discussions with local authorities in which problems were stressed, new legislation was brought in. Members probably have the 1997 legislation in mind.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell The Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.

Mr. Quinn: Yes. There is also an earlier 1966 Act, which is the ongoing mechanism used for breaches of tenants’ agreements, but the 1997 Act has received a lot of attention. Our information is that by and large it is working well. We recently did a survey of implementation of the Act by eight of the largest authorities. The Act came into force on 1 July 1997 and relates specifically to drug dealing. It does not cover wider aspects of breaches of tenancy agreements, which are still being enforced under the 1966 Act. Anti-social behaviour is closely defined when it comes to drug dealing and serious crime. The excluding order provision was a new power for local authorities and a new focused approach. Rather than evicting a whole family, the authority could focus on particular members of a family who were causing problems.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell To exclude them from the house or the area?

Mr. Quinn: The house. They could also be excluded from the estate.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell The excluding order could be granted regarding the estate?

Mr. Quinn: That is right. Of the eight major authorities which we surveyed, only South Dublin County Council and Dublin Corporation obtained excluding orders. In the case of South Dublin County Council, two excluding orders were sought by the tenant - the Act provides for the tenant or the local authority to take the initiative. The tenants sought the excluding orders in respect of the two South Dublin County Council cases against their own children and the orders were enforced. There were five excluding orders sought by Dublin Corporation tenants, though four of the cases did not proceed because the member of the household concern moved or the behaviour ceased. In Fingal County Council one householder is in the process of applying for an excluding order. In discussions with local authorities, we have discovered that the threat of using this power has been a useful deterrent when dealing with problem tenants.

The 1997 Act also makes provision for the letting and sale of local authority dwellings. Of six cases in which local authorities refused to let a dwelling on the grounds of anti-social behaviour, five were in South Dublin County Council area and one in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown. None of the eight authorities has refused to sell a house on the grounds of anti-social behaviour or because it was not in the interests of good estate management.

Another new issue is the provision of information. This gives a statutory basis to the exchange of information between local authorities, the gardaí and local health boards and seems to be working satisfactorily.

Section 20 deals with illegal occupiers of property. This was a serious problem that local authorities brought to our attention. In 96 cases illegal occupiers of local authority dwellings were removed. South Dublin County Council had five cases, Fingal had one and Dublin Corporation had 90 cases. In most of these cases the occupiers were not tenants but young people who were congregating in vacant dwellings for anti-social purposes. There are indications are that these young people returned home. There is no evidence that the health board had to deal with them subsequently as homeless people.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell How many tenants were evicted for anti-social behaviour?

Mr. Quinn: These are illegal occupiers. This was a very serious problem with young people congregating——

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I am talking about tenants. How many were evicted under the Act?

Mr. Quinn: These were not tenants as such. A number of exclusion orders were issued and there were 96 cases of illegal occupation.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Do you have figures for evicted tenants? I know of several cases of evicted tenants.

Mr. Quinn: The Chairman may have section 62 of the 1966 Act in mind. Among the eight authorities surveyed, 489 warrants for repossession were sought for a variety of reasons. This is not the drugs side but general breaches of tenancy agreements. Of that number, 63 were for estate management, 385 were for rent arrears, ten for squatters and 31 other cases. Of the 489 warrants, 107 were enforced and the balance settled before court action. These largely related to rent arrears cases where arrangements were made by the tenants with the local authorities. Of the 385 warrants issued for arrears, only 30 resulted in repossessions.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell The number of evictions for estate supervisory issues is about 63 which are connected with this issue.

Mr. Quinn: Of the 63 warrants issued 57 were enforced for estate management purposes. These would be breaches of tenancy agreements but not specifically for drugs.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell But it could be. It would be the main heading under which this would come.

Mr. Quinn: The 1997 Act was specifically geared to deal with the problems of drugs and serious crime.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Yes, but there is a major gap in that Act because the first thing a mother or father hears is the notice to quit because of the behaviour of a child. There is no provision for binding them to the peace and no steps to assist the family with counselling or treatment for the child. There is a case where the parents may be evicted while the offender may still be pushing drugs in the area. That is piling injustice upon ineffective action.

Mr. Quinn: The purpose of the new provision in the 1997 Act was to ensure that the family and those who were innocent were not being evicted. It was targeted at the drug dealer. In the cases I mentioned the tenants themselves, the parents, took the initiative.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell What about the community development aspect? What role do you see for the Department of the Environment and Local Government and the local authorities in community development, such as the various recreational needs? Do you agree that the days are gone when one builds housing estates without facilities?

Mr. Quinn: Absolutely. The Department has taken a number of initiatives in relation to estate management generally, such as the housing management grants scheme and we recently set up a housing unit to focus on training and helping to meet the needs of local authority officials in dealing with housing and estate management problems. There is a recognition that more needs to be done and local authorities have been generally very responsive to this.

There have been deficiencies in the past and we must get up to speed on it. To solve problems on estates we must involve community groups and that is happening widely. We would also encourage induction or training courses for new tenants in estates and tenants should be involved in the management of estates. This has been going fairly well. This is supported by the housing unit which will provide the back-up facilities required by local authorities.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell The contribution of the housing sections of the Department of the Environment and Local Government is very weak. Not enough is being done to improve estates or community development.

Deputy Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy Zoom on John Dennehy With your permission, I would like to revert to the point made by City Wide. They have to live with the problem. I worry about the structure and workings of the task force groups. They have presented a very good submission. They make the point that there is huge pressure on communities to spend money quickly. They are faced with the need to draw up plans, develop structures and enhance management skills and no recognition has been taken of that. People used to orderly meetings such as this cannot understand that things do not run as smoothly in communities. One must work on disciplines and develop working relationships. We should look at that aspect for the future.

The canal area is one of the four pilot projects involved in the integrated services project; my constituency is one of the four areas involved. Does Mr. McCarthy see a future in the approach adopted whereby agencies are being integrated with the community? He made the point that the people sent to such meetings are decision makers and not token attendees and that they cannot attend every meeting. Everybody’s time is limited. There is a need to identify the minimum number of times people must attend. Is the group aware of the new integrated services approach? Does it think it is beneficial and can it work?

Ms Quigley: The points raised by the Deputy are linked to task force structures. There is potential in the integrated services initiatives. This was mentioned earlier as being a major issue. A huge number of players are involved and it does not make sense if some form of integration does not take place.

Communities are very clear about their needs for support and developing skills in order to improve their position. What can happen in looking at structures such as task forces and integrated service initiatives is that there is a presumption that the community are the only people who have something to learn. That is extremely dangerous. All the other partners involved have just as much to learn; they too are new to the process of partnership. In many ways statutory agencies are less able to engage in partnerships than communities. It is often our experience that a particular statutory agency will work well with the community sector but will find it very difficult to work with another statutory agency. Our main concern is to offer support to the community sector and to make sure it is resourced to play its role. The statutory agencies involved, whether integrated service initiatives or task forces, also need training. Statutory representatives are attached to task forces but they do not necessarily see that what is happening in the task force should impact on their work. That limits the effectiveness of these structures and what they can do.

Ms McCann: Community groups campaigned for the inter-agency approach because they know what can happen when services do not work together. Various groups throughout Dublin campaigned for that approach and have worked to try to put designs and shapes on it.

I would like to back up what Ms Quigley said and relate it to some of the concerns about the environment and local government. Ballymun is the community I know best through my work in that area. There is a major plan to regenerate Ballymun but I am not aware if a plan exists for the reorganisation of the services in conjunction with that housing plan. That is an example of where we would like to see the integrated approaches going. They should work in conjunction with local areas.

Deputy Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy Zoom on John Dennehy Many contributions referred to the amounts of money being spent in the service area. There is wastage though that is not by communities. The Secretaries General might take that on board. Decision makers are sent into areas and given a certain amount of autonomy. I appreciate they cannot control every local problem. I hope these four pilot schemes will give us a working programme. They should also take on board the comments made by City Wide. This is a new culture for many people who have to work to schedules laid down. This is about communities and not the Department. We need to get that message across.

The response in Cork is good. The heads of the agencies involved there seem to have got the message that this is an opportunity to make it work. I am interested to know how the three Dublin areas are progressing. I think this approach is a good one and it could work. There is a need for agencies to be able to act at local level much more easily than heretofore.

Mr. Quinn: There is a statutory requirement on local authorities to consult tenants and health board before initiating proceedings on exclusion orders.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell There are many gaps in that legislation.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan I am surprised there have been so few cases of excluding people for anti-social behaviour. Can we get a statistical breakdown between the local authorities involved? I am surprised that the council is not initiating them in its own right and not relying on the goodwill of a parent or relation to facilitate the eviction of a known drug dealer. Why has this not been happening?

Mr. Quinn: Very often the threat of issuing an excluding order has been effective. If that achieves the desired objective then at least it is working.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan Can you attribute figures to the number of cases where the threat of eviction has worked?

Mr. Quinn: No, but I will make the information we have received from local authorities relating to the operation of the Act available to the committee. We can also supply the same information in relation to the 1966 Act.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan I am principally concerned about the 1997 Act. I am concerned about the time delays involved. What is the average time required to issue a threat of eviction to a known drug dealer? What is the time span involved from initiation to the conclusion of the complaint?

Mr. Quinn: The 1997 Act included some provisions which speeded up the process. Section 20 refers to illegal occupiers of local authority dwellings. These powers are used widely. The local authority can call the Garda if young drug users congregate.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan What about legal tenants, people who have a tenancy agreement with the council? What is the timescale for removing people involved in selling drugs? Is it one or two weeks?

Mr. Quinn: It is longer than that. In many cases the local authorities have been reluctant to take drastic action in this regard because there were criticisms from many quarters that the legislation was draconian. We were told by some people that it did not go far enough so we had to achieve a balance. This is also the case when implementing the Act because it is new legislation. Consultations are taking place between the local authorities, the Garda and health boards.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell The legislation is defective in that it provides only for the nuclear option of exclusion orders or eviction orders. Binding people to the peace or penal rent assessment, which has been effective in previous rent arrears cases, was not provided for. When an Oireachtas Committee made these points, it was told that the local authorities did not want these provisions. Local authorities are now saying that they need intermediate measures, which have been suggested by Deputies but rejected by the officials.

There is a serious defect in the legislation in that families who are threatened with eviction because of the wrongdoing of one member of the family often struggle to get that person out of the house or to get treatment for that person, without any help from official sources.

Mr. Quinn: We are following up this survey by way of discussions with local authorities. The history of local government is a question of looking at legislation. If the Minister decides that amending legislation is required that will be done.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell The other aspect is the urgent need for further community development and facilities. It has been made clear that there is a lack of facilities available to provide these services. The Department of the Environment and Local Government seems to be saying that it has nothing to do with local government and with providing these facilities.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan Is there a problem with the local consultation aspect of the legislation in the sense that if one does not take part in the consultation process, no exclusion occurs? Often those with whom we consult are so scared of the individual drug dealer that they are not prepared to consult, sign a complaint order or identify themselves to local authority officials.

Mr. Quinn: The Act provides new powers whereby the courts can accept the evidence of officials and gardaí. This is in response to the need which exists. It seems to work well in that the intimidation aspect has been removed.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan I do not understand why there are so few cases of local authorities initiating exclusion orders, gathering evidence from the Garda and following through. I accept the argument that the mere threat of an exclusion order has a salutary effect on transgressors and anti-social people, but I fail to understand why there are so few cases of local authorities deciding to take drug dealers out of an estate and following the process through.

Mr. Quinn: We will be following up the survey and making statistics available.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I have been following a particular case and members of local authorities, Dublin Corporation and the Garda have told me that the parent in this case has been urging them to help her to obtain an exclusion order against her son rather than evict her. However, they say exclusion orders are impossible to obtain and that it is easier to evict the mother, even though she has not contributed to the problem. There are problems with the legislation and the small number of exclusion orders is puzzling.

The witnesses withdrew.

Sitting suspended at 1.35 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.

Mr. T. Mooney (Assistant Secretary, Department of Health and Children) and Mr. P. McLoughlin (Chief Executive Officer, Eastern Health Board)called and examined.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I welcome Mr. Tom Mooney, assistant secretary, Department of Health and Children, Mr. Duggan, principal officer who is head of the National Drugs Strategy Team is still present and Mr. Pat McLoughlin, chief executive officer of the Eastern Health Board. Perhaps Mr. McLoughlin will introduce those accompanying him.

Mr. McLoughlin: I am accompanied by Dr. Eamon Keenan, consultant in substance misuse, Mr. Martin Gallagher, programme manager, Dr. Joe Barry, specialist in public health medicine, and Mr. Willie Rattigan, senior executive officer.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Attention has been drawn to the document in front of you about the rights, privileges, duties and lack of privilege of witnesses as provided by section 10 of the compellability Act.

We have heard extensively from Mr. Duggan earlier. Does Mr. Mooney wish to add anything further on the overall approach of the Department of Health and Children to the drugs problem, particularly on the money being spent, results and future plans?

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney Many of the issues were rehearsed this morning and I will not deal with them. One of the issues addressed was an attempt to get data on the level of drug misuse. This has been foremost in our minds for some time. It was made clear that the illicit covert nature of drug abuse makes it difficult to get statistics.

Mr. Duggan dealt with the level of heroin abuse where the estimates vary from about 8,500 to 13,500 people. It is difficult to interpret whether that represents people who are habitually abusing and those who have abused - it depends on the definitions used. There have been surveys on the use of cannabis and Ecstasy. Surprisingly, on the international scale of things, Ireland seems to have a high incidence of cannabis and Ecstasy use. This is based on the result of the surveys we have compared with different countries. The reason we are surprised is that it seems from our international contacts and from meetings and visits to various countries that we are not high on the scale but the survey results show that we are. Perhaps our surveys are more comprehensive and better than others but that is the case.

The peculiarity in relation to the Irish figures is the age profile. The age profile for people in treatment for heroin is considerably lower than the European average by about four years. When we first realised this phenomenon a number of years ago, it heartened us somewhat that the view, particularly in places such as Amsterdam, which had been dealing with this issue for a long time, is that as people get older they tend to get a bit burned out and less likely to continue using drugs. However, that has persisted in our case. There may be two reasons for that. The first is that the heavy usage of heroin arises somewhat later here than it did in some of the continental cities we compared ourselves with. The second is that we have a population with a younger age profile. We are putting considerable efforts into trying to build up valid databases. This year we have set aside money to have a consultancy study carried out in this area for which we will be going to tender very soon.

Most of the policy issues were teased out this morning and I do not intend to go back over them. In addition to the issue of money which was discussed this morning, the allocation to the health boards through the Department of Health and Children over the past four years means that this year an additional £17 million will be spent on the development of new services on an annual basis compared to four years ago.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Across Departments?

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney Across health boards. Our Department’s allocation for drug services is £17 million in excess of what it was four years ago.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Per year?

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney Yes. In successive years and under successive Administrations, the Department has not been in a position where it has been unable to fund planned developments and which health boards were in a position to put in place. Funding has always been available to support the health boards’ plans.

The methadone protocol was touched on this morning. I will leave the detail of its operation at local level to the health board representatives. As Mr. Duggan outlined this morning, our policy is to try to have in place a mix of services which can be adapted and are as appropriate to the needs of the communities as possible. City Wide mentioned this morning that perhaps the emphasis on methadone was understandable in the early days where we needed to get a rapid response and something that would reach as many addicts as possible. Apart from a small waiting list, we have broadly achieved that and the emphasis moves on to other areas. The additional beds that will be provided by the Eastern Health Board this year will place Dublin in a very favourable position internationally with regard the level of in-patient beds for the treatment of addicts.

From our experience of talking to people from abroad, it is obvious that in-patient treatment is not the treatment of first choice because there is very little reason to have people in bed except to have to remove them from the community. It is better to treat them within their own community because there is a very high level of recidivism if they are taken away, detoxed and then they return to their own environment but do not have the skills to cope with that. Nonetheless, the increase in the number of beds will put Dublin in a very favourable position internationally.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell What is the proposed increase?

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney Mr. McLoughlin may be able to deal with the figures more precisely than I. There will be about 32 additional beds bringing it up to a total of about 70 for this year which would be way in excess on a population wide basis of what would be available in Liverpool or Manchester. I am not saying those cities are the ideal but by their standards we are doing reasonably well.

We try at a number of levels to keep ourselves as up to date as possible in relation to what is the state-of-the-art service with regard to drugs. We have bilateral meetings with other countries and cities. Many of them come here to see what we are doing. We also learn from them. The EU has a number of committees established and Mr. Duggan is on the board of some of those committees, for example, EMCDDA in Lisbon. We have an ongoing involvement with the United Nations drug control programme and contribute to it on a regular basis. I am the permanent correspondent to the Pompidou group in the Council of Europe where we have regular meetings in relation to drugs. We have a triennial ministerial meeting which helps to bring people from the various countries together.

The solution to the drugs problem is a complex one. That was clearly borne out by this morning’s discussion. While the health service has an important role to play it is simply one of many.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell With regard to drug courts and treatment audits, is legislation similar to the mental health legislation being considered for drug addicts and their treatment?

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney No. As pointed out by our colleagues this morning, in so far as we are aware the legislation that is in place at present, particularly the amendments which Mr. Duggan would be more familiar with, is adequate to deal with the situation.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell In my preparation for this meeting that is not the impression I got from legal sources. A view was expressed to me that we need legislation parallel to the mental health provisions where people can be ordered to take treatment rather than imprisoned.

Mr J. Duggan further called and examined.

Mr. Duggan: My reading of the drug courts issue from the 5th report of the Courts Commission is that it seemed to satisfy itself that the Misuse of Drugs Acts, 1977 and 1984, provide a framework in which court order treatment could be provided. The underlying consideration is that one cannot force someone to accept treatment; instead one offers them treatment as an alternative to a punitive sentence.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Under the Mental Health Acts people can be forced to take treatment if it is warranted on the grounds of community safety.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney I do not think there is any suggestion in the establishment of the drug courts that people will be compelled to take treatment. The courts will offer treatment as an option. That is what is done in the US. It is question of going on a course, not necessarily residential. A person could just attend a clinic two days a week or on a daily basis.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Would a person simply have to meet the requirements of whatever treatment order is made?

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney Yes.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Would that be instead of a prison sentence?

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney Yes. Presumably, judges presiding in a drug court will have medical reports and advice available to them so as to inform them on the most appropriate course of treatment for an addict before the court.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Will that legislation will be required? I understood that if a person committed a crime because of addiction, but successfully completed a treatment order and became stabilised, that person would not be treated as having committed a crime but they would be treated in a similar way to a person covered by the Probation Act. Is that being considered?

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney Not to my knowledge. Having listened to my colleagues from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform they did not seem to be considering this proposal either.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell It was what I was led to believe was being covered in extensive discussions about this issue.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney Perhaps the deliberations by the planning group which was established to set up the drug courts would lead them to the same conclusion as the Chairman.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I will come back to this issue in a few moments. I wish to hear from Mr. McLoughlin of the Eastern Health Board, which covers the area most damned by the drugs problem and it is the main agency dealing with it.

Mr. McLoughlin: The position is that the health board will spend £17.615 million on our drugs programme this year. We have been trying to develop local services. A measure of our success is that at the beginning of 1996 we provided six premises but we now have 45 premises. In 1996 we had 15 doctors prepared to prescribe methadone but now we have 106. We also had 35 pharmacists dispensing methadone in the community from their own premises but now we have 155. Our approach has been to provide treatment locally in areas with the co-operation of general practitioners, local pharmacists and the development of local centres.

There are 3,738 people on the central treatment list and they are on methadone maintenance, methadone reduction or detox programmes. In addition, there would be persons in the Coolmine and Rutland centres for which we would provide some resources and there would also be persons in receipt of counselling which would be separate from that.

We are also developing an information system. We received tenders and now we are negotiating with a company to establish an information system that will track a person for the duration of their time with the service. We have an extensive number of developments this year both on the education and rehabilitation sides.

With regard to beds, we have a 17 bed detox centre in Cuan Dara. Originally there were only 12 beds. There is also a ten bed unit in Beaumont hospital. The unit in Cuan Mhuire provides a six week programme which is a combination of detox and rehabilitation. Patients have also been admitted for stabilisation which is one of the reasons for the increase in the number of female patients in recent years. A 12 bed unit has been completed at Cherry Orchard Hospital and it will be commissioned once staffing is in place.

We also plan to provide a 20 bed unit in St. Mary’s Hospital in the Phoenix Park. We have been granted planning permission and gone through the process of tendering. At present we are negotiating with a builder. We hope to open this unit by the end of the year. It has been difficult to secure premises.

A 17 bed unit provided by the health board and a ten bed unit in Beaumont Hospital may seem a small number of beds but you must look at the throughput that number of beds is capable of giving.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Let us go through that figure again. You mentioned that there was an increase from 32 to 70 beds. Where are those beds?

Mr. McLaughlin: We support the Merchant’s Quay unit in High Park, Drumcondra, and we also contracted Cuan Mhuire in Athy.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell How many beds are there?

Mr. McLaughlin: There are 12 beds in each.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell That makes 73 beds.

Mr. McLaughlin: We will be in a position to ensure the 27 detox beds are pure detox beds by the end of the year; the detox programme is a two week chemical detox process and we can get a throughput of 500 people. By any standards we are well placed in terms of residential places for detox.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell By the end of the year?

Mr. McLaughlin: Yes.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Tell me about waiting lists for both in-patients and outpatients.

Mr. McLaughlin: Waiting lists have grown. The total waiting list has risen from 450 at the start of the year to approximately 600. We are now validating that figure because there are people who are on the waiting list for the detoxification unit who would be receiving treatment elsewhere. We are validating that centre by centre.

There is no doubt that the introduction of the protocol had the effect of giving us a true indication, as we had always wanted, of the numbers prepared to come forward for treatment. The earlier central treatment list was a voluntary system of registration and we felt that a number of people were being treated by doctors and accurate information was not being provided.

It was a recommendation of the ministerial task force that stringent control be brought in and we made recommendations as a board that the system be changed. Through a working group comprised of the Irish College of General Practitioners, the Department, the Pharmaceutical Society and ourselves, we agreed on series of changes and controls which have been of tremendous benefit to communities and allowed us to know exactly what is going on. There is proper training for professionals involved.

The next task is to ensure that people who want to come forward for treatment can get it. To do that we need to open the balance of the clinics we are trying to operate. We hope to get the existing GPs who are treating people to take more patients who are stabilised from the clinics, and to get more GPs interested. That would free capacity within the clinics. As of now, there are approximately 600 people waiting for treatment.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell That is out of 3,700?

Mr. McLaughlin: Yes.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell About one-sixth of the people are waiting?

Mr. McLaughlin: Yes.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Would Dr. Barry say a word about the methadone protocol?

Dr. Barry: The protocol the Government outlined and recommended for some time came into effect in October 1998 by way of regulatory changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act. If a doctor now wished to prescribe methadone, it is necessary to be on a list of approved doctors of the relevant health board - obviously the Eastern Health Board in this case. There also needs to be a nominated pharmacy.

In the implementation of the protocol we are limiting the number of patients who can be prescribed by any individual doctor and limiting the number of patients who can have their methadone dispensed at any given pharmacy. The document outlines that there has been a marked increase in the number of general practitioners and pharmacists who are willing, able and have been trained to provide this service. It is a way of having treatment available locally in a manner that will not cause problems within communities and a system which will be safe for individual patients because there is a great deal of monitoring. Methadone is a drug in itself so there must be control of how it is prescribed.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Could you tell us about methadone as a drug? At public meetings on this issue, one constantly comes up against a doctrinaire view that methadone should not be prescribed in any circumstances. Is that point of view gathering support in the literature? Do we have more knowledge about methadone as an addictive drug itself that we did five years ago?

Dr. Barry: The knowledge we have is that methadone has been extensively evaluated, more than the vast majority of medical treatments.

Methadone does four things where it has been objectively studied. It reduces the overall mortality in communities of drug users. It transfers the system whereby someone who is addicted to an opiate, hustling on the street, who is robbing to get money to inject heroin four times a day moves into a clinic. The experience in the health boards, and we have been involved in this work since 1991, is that over the course of time when people come for assessment, there is chaos initially because people’s difficulties do not begin the day they come to us for help. Methadone, and this is only part of the solution, brings individual drug takers and their families into contact with health care professionals, be they doctors, nurses or counsellors, and then the real work can begin so that we can see the best, most realistic option for individuals.

People have difficulties with self esteem, perhaps literacy problems and low employment prospects. Regular attendance in a clinical setting, either in a general practitioner’s surgery or in a health board clinic, gives a better opportunity for qualified people to make an assessment of the best course of action long-term for any individual.

The pressure points which have arisen are that people start using drugs at an early age in Dublin. The average age at which people begin injecting has dropped, the average age at which people experiment with other drugs has dropped and the average age at which young people in Ireland drink alcohol has dropped and they are all connected. Methadone is one specific part of a response. It does not stop an addiction but it transfers a street culture to a health care setting. I would not under-estimate what needs to be done just because someone is coming to a clinic. It is not our intention that people come to the clinics.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The significant progress made in doctors subscribing to the protocol must be a boost. Do you have any figure for what would be as ideal as you can get in this business? There are 105 now. How many do we need?

Dr. Barry: There are between 600 and 700 general practitioners in the Eastern Health Board area within the general medical practitioners scheme. We want doctors to want to do it. If you force a doctor to provide a treatment, it will not work. If you put up a map of the Eastern Health Board area and the concentration of doctors and another with the concentration of drug takers, there will not be a mismatch. We would welcome and actively encourage more than 105 - about 150 have been through the training.

Part of the deal with the methadone protocol is that we ask general practitioners not to take people from their own locality because it irks people to have to travel a long way for treatment. That was a difficulty before the protocol was introduced.

There are some parts of the city where there is a lot of drug taking and a high percentage of GPs are part of the scheme and there are others where there are not as many. It is also linked to the development of the satellite clinics and the addiction centres because a GP will need to know that, if they have a difficulty with a patient, they can refer them somewhere else, to a specialist centre. The pharmacists are equally important because one needs an outlet. As Mr. McLoughlin said, we have 145 outlets for pharmacy.

Many GPs have one, two or three patients and we are making arrangements that they will take more but it does take time. We want this to work. The increase from 15 GPs to 150 has entailed much effort and commitment. We have given guarantees that if there are difficulties people will be helped.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte In terms of the comment about the drop in the age of addiction, I do not wish to provoke a “medical chief says drugs problem is worse,” headline, but is Dr. Barry saying that while very considerable progress has been made in recent years, the problem is still endemic?

Dr. Barry: I think it is reasonable to say that. There are young people in their mid-to late teens - aged 17 to 18 - in 1999 and in 1996 when the ministerial task force was set up, these people were 13 years of age. If no new people were coming onto programmes we would not have such long waiting lists but as a proportion of people in treatment, the waiting list is much smaller than it was. Equally, in terms of moving people off the list, what people need is a great deal of support when they detoxify. To come back to the Deputy’s question about having an abstinence approach, one of the difficulties in the past has been that the majority of drug users cannot manage that and they go back to using drugs. Of course, a supply of drugs is available.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte We have been discussing the allocation and draw-down of money. I am responsible for giving the wrong impression that it was voted in 1997; I see it was voted in 1996 although the task force did not come into being until early 1997 and here we are in 1999. Money is there. Can Mr. McLoughlin tell us if enough, or if any of it, has been used on promotion? How much does he do on promotion? I am talking about the advertisement of the actual services that are there. I think all TDs will say that parents coming to our clinics do not seem to know how to find their way around the system or where to go. If they happen to have a GP who does not regard this as his speciality - that is how I put it - they are lost.

Mr. McLoughlin: We have tried to put many more resources into indicating to public representatives where we have treatment. On occasions we have sent out lists of locations where we have treatment. We also have a help line to which many calls have been made, mainly by parents and third parties inquiring about drugs, or by parents who have found something. We have an extensive list of clinics and people can make contact at 45 treatment centres. I suppose nobody actually wonders about this until it comes to his or her own door. Sometimes we find people are very afraid to ask anyone in their local community.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Is there any reason the local media or schools network should not be used to advertise it? I can say for a fact that all the time I meet people who do not know where to go.

Mr. McLoughlin: We have a directory of services, we have the helpline and we take out ads in many booklets and in the media. However, there is another issue. When there was a great deal of vigilantism, parents were afraid to look for support locally because to indicate that one of the family was a drug user often brought its own trouble if the word got around. We will take that point on board and see that public representatives and other community groups have the directory of services.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Has Mr. McLoughlin had any discussions with the broadcasting networks - RTE in particular - about public education for parents on this phenomenon?

Mr. McLoughlin: In relation to public education, we have tried to work more through the National Parents’ Council and schools. We have had videos made that could be used by schools or community groups. We certainly have had discussions at times - perhaps during European drug prevention week - with the broadcast media. We have great difficulty persuading the media to give a balanced view of what is going on in the drugs services.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte One might expect RTE to be a bit more forthcoming in this rather than reeling out the story every second week about the biggest drugs haul so far. I do not know how they can all be the biggest but every one seems to be the biggest drugs haul so far and another tremendous coup for the gardaí. We all applaud that but one would expect a bit more than that.

Mr. McLoughlin: Some programmes have a drugs issue as part of the actual programme. The TV soap operas sometimes deal with drug taking issues as part of the programme. That sort of approach can be effective. As Dr. Barry has said and as research has shown, early experimentation with nicotine and alcohol can lead to early experimentation with soft drugs and so on. It is not just an issue of awareness of heroin per se. We have used education campaigns and poster campaigns - for which we have received awards - but our education office would say that the degree to which these impact is difficult to prove.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I understand that. I raise the question in the context of the level of awareness in the community and what one can do about that. Does Mr. McLoughlin wish to comment on Deputy Conor Lenihan’s question about the extent to which misunderstanding, misinformation and prejudice in the community is delaying the installation of the infrastructure necessary to address the problem in their own midst, often where communities refuse to admit that they have a problem and would have one believe that drugs miscreants are coming in from outside and all that kind of thing? How serious a problem is that for the Eastern Health Board now and are public attitudes improving?

Mr. McLoughlin: It certainly has eased. The fact that we can now point to the fact that we have had to provide treatment in middle class and what would be called lower socio-economic areas makes it easier for communities to admit that they have a problem. We can also point out that this is not an issue of centralised treatment to which 300 or 400 people would be brought but that people will be treated in their own area. However, no one is knocking on my door to say he is anxious to establish a drug clinic. It is a hard road from the time we identify a problem. We try to work with the community. There will be people who are in favour of the clinic but who may be afraid to voice that support in the early stages. There may be people who are open to persuasion and there will be people who are actively against it and will tell us they will never accept it, will picket and will take us to the Court of Human Rights. This has happened. We must make a judgment whether to go ahead or try to negotiate. We have done both. In some cases we have decided the situation was so urgent we have gone ahead. Our experience in those cases has been positive. Opposition dies down when people see that the clinic is run well. If the 45 treatment centres were not running well we would have serious problems but we have put much effort and money into providing security and so on.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Will Mr. McLoughlin particularise it for a minute in terms of understanding it? Take a tangible case of Tallaght village, which is the centre of a huge population. His attempt to open a centre there was thwarted and ultimately defeated. How big a drawback is that in that region?

Mr. McLoughlin: It is a huge drawback. Tallaght was a model of community development and community approach to treatment with many local treatment initiatives. The initial ones came from the community, then the health board itself ran individual projects. The key to this being a success was an actual addiction centre so that if people had difficulties they could be referred to a centre where there was daily supervision and they could have access to a consultant psychiatrist and many more supports. We tried to secure a location and we had great difficulty getting one. When a premises became available beside us there was an immediate campaign against us led by a financial institution. We applied for planning permission and were approved by South Dublin County Council. We received great support from local public representatives. It went to An Bord Pleanála and we were defeated. We now have to look for another centre. We do not have a premises ourselves. We will have to secure a premises and a site, apply for planning permission and go through the process again. We now have a large number of people who are on a waiting list who we cannot treat in the existing centres.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte What was the consequence in terms of children waiting for treatment?

Mr. McLoughlin: Because of the protocol we had to established a service in Millbrook Lawns without adequate consultation as an emergency measure. That took time to settle down but we now have great community support. We have a waiting list for this service from all areas in Tallaght. It means that people who are waiting are becoming more chronically addicted and that is a major problem in itself.

We are in discussion with Dublin County Council, who has been very supportive. We have 79 people attending our service in Millbrook Lawns with 60 people on the waiting list. It is very difficult explaining to parents of addicts from Millbrook Lawns that the centre is full and in some cases full as a result of people attending from outside the area. If every community takes it own share, this will not be a major problem. Thirteen thousand is a very small number to treat in a variety of locations.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte When it comes to the assessment of that kind of experience, how much was due to a lack of understanding of what such a centre involves? One hears stories about people being set upon by junkies when going to lodge money in their local credit unions, that this would be a haven of public order, disarray and so on.

Mr. McLoughlin: When people come to us to ask about our locations, we supply a list of these areas and I advise people to go and see them operating. One can see a clinic operating in Dr. Steeven’s Hospital, under my window, and see for themselves, that it is being operated properly. At least, let us show a video of how we provide treatment to communities that may be reluctant to accommodate such treatment centres. We can convince people if they have an open mind. We have great community support and we would not have been able to open 45 centres without it. There are areas where we experience difficulties and, unfortunately, they are areas where we need to be if we are to try to deal with the problem. Tallaght needs an addiction centre that can take 100 to 150 people with strict security regimes in place. The centre also needs supervision of urine testing, methadone treatment, counselling,crèche facilities and community welfare services. It will put more pressure on the individual community projects if we cannot supply such a service.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Were you taken aback by the decision of An Bord Pleanála?

Mr. McLoughlin: I was disappointed but that is the process. I have to accept it. I would have been happy if we had got it through but we will still have to go back with another application for a centre.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Maybe you should have gone to Dublin Castle to get some advice. What about the mobile clinic?

Mr. McLoughlin: The mobile clinic was established for persons who were still abusing drugs which caused chaos in their lives. It helps achieve some stability; therefore we give them a low dose of methadone to reduce the risk of harmful activity. The mobile system is not an appropriate response to the addiction problem. Perhaps Dr. Keenan will explain in more detail.

Dr. Keenan: The mobile bus is large but it is still a bus and providing a full range of treatment from a bus is not ideal. We provide a harm reduction initiative. Each drug addict who has been fully assessed receives 20 mg of methadone and sterile injecting equipment. The idea of harm reduction is that they have access to staff on a daily basis. The bus will attend each area seven days per week. Each addict will get clean injecting equipment so that they will not be subjected to HIV, hepatitis or, if they are HIV positive or hepatitis C positive, it will prevent the virus being spread to other people. We are using the service as a first link for people in transition into mainstream services. These people can achieve some sort of stability, even on the 20 mg dosage, and then be referred on to an addiction centre where the full range of services is in operation. The staff on the bus consists of a pharmacist, a nurse, an outreach worker and general assistants.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte How many hours it is in operation each week?

Dr. Keenan: The bus is now going to four locations each day and spending an average of 45 minutes in each location. We are now treating 80 patients in the city via the mobile bus service.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Is that an aspect that may have to be expanded to cope with the demand?

Dr. Keenan: It will be a very useful service to have when we set up the addiction centres. It can be the initial point of contact for a drug user but it can also be used from the clinic setting. If someone destabilises within a clinic setting, rather than discharging that person back onto the streets and using chaotically, they can be discharged to the mobile bus where they will still have support and back up from the health board staff.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Are there counsellors on the bus?

Dr. Keenan: It is not a full range of services. The staff include a pharmacist who will dispense the methadone, a nurse who will give advice to the patients on any physical problems they are having, an outreach worker who will provide very brief input in terms of a counsellor and will also provide sterile injecting equipment and general assistance.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell What percentage of heroin addicts are suffering from hepatitis C, HIV and other diseases?

Dr. Keenan: We published a major report in the international journal in November last year which looked at a large cohort of drug users who presented to the drug treatment centre over a five year period - there were 600 new drug users. Of that population, 60 per cent were hepatitis C positive and 1 to 2 per cent were HIV positive. We felt that in some way because that was the population which had been presented since 1993, our drive in terms of harm reduction had been successful in dealing with the HIV but the hepatitis C remains very acute. When you consider it you have a population of 60 per cent who are hepatitis C positive and the first time somebody starts injecting or using drugs, they may well be sharing injecting equipment with someone who is hepatitis C positive. Hepatitis C is a stronger virus than HIV.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Are they transmitted in different ways?

Dr. Keenan: No, but it is a stronger and more robust virus than HIV.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell How have you been successful in reducing the instances of HIV and not hepatitis C?

Dr. Keenan: We have mounted a campaign since the early nineties in relation to needle exchange in terms of harm reduction and giving advice to drug users about injecting. HIV is not a very robust virus. Even a very simple cleaning of injecting equipment may well destroy the HIV virus. However hepatitis C is a much more robust virus. Our advice is that if anybody is injecting, they should use sterile injecting equipment all the time.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Is hepatitis C always fatal in the long-term?

Dr. Keenan: No. In relation to hepatitis C, about 50 per cent of people may develop chronic liver problems and that may occur ten or 15 years after contracting the virus. That has long-term health implications for the State.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Can hepatitis C be transmitted sexually like HIV?

Dr. Keenan: The studies which have been done on hepatitis C show that it is less likely to be transmitted sexually than HIV.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell So sufferers from hepatitis C could have a normal sex life compared to people who are HIV.

Dr. Keenan: Yes.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan Is it correct that there are 45 centres in the Dublin area?

Mr. McLoughlin: The Dublin area includes Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow. There is no actual centre in Kildare. Wicklow has one centre in Bray and we are trying to establish a centre in Arklow.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan The majority of centres have been put in place successfully. I presume only a small minority have gone down due to public resistance.

Mr. McLoughlin: Very few have gone down. We do not go away. There are sites with which we have difficulties. Obviously if there are difficulties with a site we have to try to convince the people or get a different site. It does hold us up.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan In other words, the percentage of sites where a drugs centre is not successfully set up is a small proportion compared to the number set up?

Mr. McLoughlin: Of the original group we set out to establish, we have achieved 45.

Deputy Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan What is that as a percentage?

Mr. McLoughlin: An extra seven and nine large centres would deal with the problem; that is mainly in the Dublin city area.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan If they were categorised as a percentage could one say you have been 90 per cent successful in getting the addiction centres in place?

Mr. McLoughlin: Yes.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan That good work can never stop.

Mr. McLoughlin: Part of the difficulty we have had in establishing drug centres is that we would have made agreements with communities on the numbers we would treat. The building we suggested for Cork Street would have catered for about 100. The community did not accept that but did accept the addicts should be treated in their own area. They agreed a location with us for which we sought planning permission and built a centre which caters for 40 people. There is now a waiting list of 20 for that area. In many of the communities with which we have agreements, we have agreement in relation to numbers. This does and will give rise to problems down the line as to whether we can go back to that community or get another centre or more GPs.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan How many times have you been turned down by An Bord Pleanála?

Mr. McLoughlin: That is the only one I am aware of.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan I understand there is huge resistance in Tallaght.

Mr. McLoughlin: Sometimes there is a difficulty trying to get a good location. Our experience with An Bord Pleanála and planners would drive us towards what we had been doing, to try to use our own facilities and our own health centres as the main vehicle for treatment.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan It is not as if the planners or the public are trying to thwart your efforts to deal with the drug addiction problem.

Mr. McLoughlin: The planners have not tried to thwart us; in some cases the public has tried.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan Do you see that as a major problem? You have admitted you are getting addiction centres ——

Mr. McLoughlin: I had enough money for them all and had I got co-operation everybody would be on treatment now.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan Is there anything wrong with being turned down by An Bord Pleanála? Do you accept its right to do so?

Mr. McLoughlin: Like us, it is an agent of the State. It does its job, we do ours.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan Deputy Rabbitte thinks it should not have that right.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I think there are very understanding people in it.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan In regard to residential detox, I had the privilege to spend a few hours with 20 drug addicts in Cuan Mhuire. They said they had tried methadone. One can take with a pinch of salt their view, which is that methadone is a complete waste of time. They had tried methadone. They had sold methadone to their friends. They had gone back into their communities. What they said was very much at odds with what people are saying here. They said that being taken out of the community and put into residential places was of huge benefit to them in terms of getting rid of the addiction problem.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell That has been put to me several times.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan I accept they are addicts and, therefore, have a problem and may have exaggerated the effect of the treatment in Cuan Mhuire. However, that was their view.

Mr. McLoughlin: There is no best way to treat drug addicts. We provide treatment throughout the spectrum. We pay a grant to Coolmine and actually grant aid Cuan Mhuire. It is a question of what treatment is appropriate for a particular patient at a particular time. If they are well motivated they may be able to abstain and may have come through a detox unit and may have benefited. We try to have a range of treatment options available so that the individual can be taken at whichever stage they are at, and try to have an appropriate response. I do not think that one is better or worse than the other.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan Is there a medical limit on the length of time one can be on methadone? I assume you cannot spend your whole life on it.

Dr. Barry: Yes.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan Does it cause physical effects, life threatening illnesses, etc?

Dr. Barry: No. It prevents life threatening illnesses. It limits the transmission of the viruses. We have people who have been on methadone on a long time. In the United States where they began the use of methadone in a wider scale in the mid-1960s, people have been on it for decades. As the general unemployment rate in this city has fallen since the early 1990s, a number of the people on programmes have jobs. In residential centres, people will get whatever treatment works best for them. We look on addiction as a chronic relapsing illness which it is, and people go up and down. Also it has social dimensions. From about the mid-teens to the early 30s, detox could be the best option. It depends on the supports. Cuan Mhuire and Coolmine are residential centres and work for some people. Outpatient detox is also possible through the different locations. An individual decision is made for any given person.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan Is Dr. Barry saying there are no side effects from being on methadone for five to ten years?

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell City Wide may wish to come in on this point.

Ms Quigley: The number on methadone treatment is approximately 3,700. About 100 have access to rehab facilities. This means that the vast majority of people on treatment do not have access to such facilities. Obviously, there are plans but the key issue is that priority must be given to implementing them otherwise we will have a constant discussion for and against methadone. It is an unrealistic argument. Nobody on the planet argues that methadone on its own is a treatment. It is an emergency treatment. It is a stop-gap measure.

Given the expansion in the health board services, the big worry among people in communities who have supported the establishment of services is that once the medical end is looked after, that would be the extent of the services and the huge investment required in rehab, which is an expensive part of the business, will not be made. If that happens, there will be a backlash in a few years’ time against the existing services because people will say they were promised a complete service which they have not got.

In terms of waiting lists, people will not move off. People who are receiving methadone without the rehab services tend not to move off. They stay on the programmes, some have been on them for a number of years. While people are staying on programmes, spaces are not being freed up. It is important that the argument does not boil down to one being for or against methadone. It is only part of how it is used.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell What number of people are getting methadone on a daily basis to take away?

Mr. McLoughlin: I do not have specific figures. We operate a seven day dispensing service wherever we are allowed to do so at all our main addiction centres. Community prescribing is a matter for the general practitioner. Dr. Barry may have some information on it.

Dr. Barry: Half of the 3,738 people on methadone, to which Mr. McLoughlin referred, have treatment cards which means they get their methadone prescription in a retail pharmacy.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Do they take it home?

Dr. Barry: Some of them have to consume it on the premises. Half of them have no treatment cards. In other words, they take it on site in the clinics. We often end up talking about methadone and it is not the only thing which is offered.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell One of the problems associated with methadone clinics was that much of the methadone was being sold in the vicinity of the clinics. Has that stopped?

Dr. Barry: Two articles were published in the past month, one in the Sunday Tribune and one in The Irish Times, about the closing down of back street methadone sales. You can never say it will never happen again but it is less prevalent.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Is it the objective to get to the stage where everybody gets methadone on a daily basis on site rather than to take away?

Dr. Keenan: To give an idea of what happens when somebody attends a treatment centre for the first time, after a period of stabilisation when their methadone dose has been adjusted, they attend seven days per week and they are dispensed their methadone seven days per week. After they have stabilised and we have them at their correct dose of methadone, that person will be expected to provide supervised urine samples twice a week. There will be a three month period of providing completely clean urine samples before that person will be considered to even start on the take away regime. Initially they are given weekend take aways and if they are clean for a further three months that is increased. Only after somebody has been providing clean urine samples for one year will he or she attend a clinic only once a week. If at any stage over that period somebody provides a dirty urine sample in terms of illicit heroin use on top of their methadone, the take aways are stopped immediately. That is as much as we can do.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell What happens when people get a job? Fortunately, a number of people are getting jobs now.

Dr. Keenan: Absolutely. This is where the clinics are linking in closely with general practitioners. If somebody gets a job, has stabilised his or her illicit drug use and he or she is on a weekly take away dose, the person is then in a position to be transferred to one of the GPs.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell The trade in methadone on the street has not stopped completely. Some people get it legally but sell it illegally.

Deputy Ardagh: Information on Seán Ardagh Zoom on Seán Ardagh To return to the Tallaght situation, I understand the An Bord Pleanála application involved an oral hearing. Did the board learn any lessons from that oral hearing? Would it approach another oral hearing, if there was one, in a different manner?

Mr. McLoughlin: The major difficulty was the particular location. In fairness, most of the people who spoke at the oral hearing, including a Minister who came of his own choice, said they were totally in favour of the health board’s plans. The issue was not whether there should be drug treatment, it was whether the particular location and the activity which was on the street was conducive to the rest of the commercial activity on the street. We never said that was the best location for a drug treatment service. We said it was the only location which we could find in Tallaght at which we could provide treatment.

The way we handled that case at An Bord Pleanála in no way impacted on the decision. If the Deputy is asking if we had been represented professionally, we had the board’s legal advisers assisting us in the case. The question was down to the particular plan which south Dublin had for the area and how this impacted on that plan, given that it was to be predominantly residential.

Deputy Ardagh: Information on Seán Ardagh Zoom on Seán Ardagh Did the Eastern Health Board have the advice of a town planner on its side at that hearing?

Mr. McLoughlin: No.

Deputy Ardagh: Information on Seán Ardagh Zoom on Seán Ardagh Would Mr. McLoughlin ensure a town planner is involved in future if the same type of planning matters were implicated in the decision?

Mr. McLoughlin: The Eastern Health Board has an estate management officer and we take advice on each individual case.

Deputy Ardagh: Information on Seán Ardagh Zoom on Seán Ardagh To return to what Ms Quigley and Mr. McCarthy stated were on top of their agendas of necessary items in the community, that is community development, Mr. McLoughlin mentioned that in Tallaght the initial project was community driven. How is the Eastern Health Board assisting and acting as a resource for community groups and communities to develop?

Mr. McLoughlin: There is an individual in the Eastern Health Board who is specifically appointed as the local area development co-ordinator. If a group comes to us for assistance, we can provide training. We have provided a great deal of training for community groups. We also have done a great deal of work with our education officers in community awareness of the drugs issue in particular. It is an area in which we have assisted. We work closely with the area partnerships and the drugs task forces, but we find communities at different stages of development. If any group identifies a need and asks the board for support in terms of establishing structures and groups, we would give them advice, support and resources to do that. That has been very effective.

We also have provided moneys in many cases to voluntary organisations who do this because they have a track record in it. I have provided a list of the organisations for which we provide money who have a track record in providing this type of community development because it is important. Groups like City Wide have had a major impact in articulating the needs of communities to us and that is important.

Deputy Ardagh: Information on Seán Ardagh Zoom on Seán Ardagh Would it be in order, Chairman, to ask City Wide how it believes the Eastern Health Board could assist it in community development, and to get a response from the Eastern Health Board?

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Absolutely. Ms Quigley mentioned the need for more commitment on rehabilitation. I wanted to get a response on that also. Ms Quigley, do you wish to answer Deputy Ardagh’s question?

Ms Quigley: Yes. It goes back to a comment made earlier this morning that, in terms of the partnership process over the past couple of years, as Mr. McLoughlin stated, we have had ongoing contact with Mr. McLoughlin and he has attended meetings with the community representatives, etc.

In terms of the partnership model, there tends to be the expectation that the only side that needs to learn something and to change the way it is doing things is the community sector. The health board should also be learning from the partnership process. For everybody who is involved, part of the process is looking at their way of doing things and learning from it.

I was struck by one of the references Dr. Barry made to qualified people. There are obviously qualified people in every area. The health board people are qualified in their own particular areas, but there needs to be recognition, particularly because State policy is looking at the drugs issue as much broader than a medical issue. It is not a medical issue. It has a medical aspect but it is a much broader issue which touches on a range of socio-economic issues. There needs to be a recognition by people who have an expertise in a particular aspect of the drugs issue that other people also have expertise in other aspects of it and that the best way forward is for all of these people with expertise to work together. That is obviously the way forward and it is certainly what communities want.

As was stated earlier, it is communities who have led the way in terms of trying to develop these partnership arrangements. There must be an acknowledgement by people, who I suppose have always been seen as those with the expertise, that there are other forms of expertise which have a role in this also. That is important from a community perspective. They do not want to be just there to be told about what is going on. Their expertise on many of these issues should be recognised. Their expertise is different from that of the health board. Nobody is claiming that either group has the full picture. It is a different form of expertise but both areas of expertise are needed. It is important to recognise that.

Deputy Ardagh: Information on Seán Ardagh Zoom on Seán Ardagh I was interested to hear Mr. McLoughlin suggest that part of the problem with methadone centres is that it takes a while for the community to admit that it has a problem. I would say that he must bring people along, convince them, communicate with them and develop their thinking in that regard.

Earlier he listed figures and I was not able to keep up with him. He is marvellous with figures. The Eastern Health Board is well run. However, I had a problem in the last few months concerning the way the health board was communicating with the community at large, particularly in areas where methadone centres were going to be installed. There has been a great improvement, certainly in the health centres in which I am involved in, and Dr. Keenan has played a major role in that. The health board is taking the concerns of the community more into account but there is more room for the board not only to talk, administer and provide figures but to listen to the people it is serving, including community leaders and activists. They are there with the best will in the world and although they may not have the technical expertise, they certainly have the feel for what is happening on the ground and for those they are serving. I hope that will continue.

Earlier the Chairman asked about methadone and heroin. What are the toxic and addictive effects of methadone as against heroin?

Dr. Keenan: Neither pure heroin nor methadone causes any specific toxic organ damage in humans. The problem is that nobody gets pure heroin, they get an adulterated version of it. They are using unsterile injecting techniques and therefore they are running the risk of transmission of viruses, in addition to getting abscesses and gangrene. They can also get depression associated with all the problems which heroin abuse brings.

The tooth decay aspect of methadone was referred to earlier. That is not caused by methadone as such but by a particular form of methadone which was marketed as physeptone and which had an extremely high sugar content. Since the methadone protocol, physeptone has been taken off the market and we are using generic methadone.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell So there was some validity in the comment about physeptone?

Dr. Keenan: Yes. Physeptone has an extremely high sugar content.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell The green methadone does not have that?

Dr. Keenan: We use sugar free methadone now. The other thing to remember is that the high sugar content in conjunction with poor oral hygiene would have contributed to a large amount of the dental caries which have been seen in individuals.

The difference between heroin and methadone addiction is that methadone has a longer half life. That means you can take methadone on a once daily basis as opposed to heroin which the majority of chronic users would use three to four times per day. It also has the effect that withdrawals of methadone are more prolonged than withdrawals of heroin. However, no toxic organ damage is associated with methadone.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell When you say that it is more prolonged, is that a good or a bad thing? Are you saying it takes longer to get off methadone?

Dr. Keenan: I am talking about the case of somebody going cold turkey. The withdrawals of methadone will be longer than those experienced in going off heroin. Therefore, they will perceive that as being more severe.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan It is harder to get off methadone.

Deputy Ardagh: Information on Seán Ardagh Zoom on Seán Ardagh At what age do people start to take drugs in Ireland? Are there any international comparisons concerning the average age at which children here start to take drugs and become addicted to them as against children in Europe or North America?

Dr. Barry: As Mr. Mooney mentioned, reports from the European Monitoring Centre for Drug and Drug Addiction show that people in this country are starting younger than in other EU member states. The most recent figures from the Health Research Board show that almost 60 per cent receiving treatment for drug use in Dublin left school at or before the minimum school leaving age.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell What is the percentage?

Dr. Barry: Fifty eight per cent is the actual figure quoted.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Fifty eight per cent of those with drug addiction were early school leavers?

Dr. Barry: Yes. There is a lot of evidence of that. I agree it is not a medical issue but a social one. People begin to drop out of school functionally towards the end of primary school. They are not able to read properly and when secondary school starts some people become more vulnerable. Drug dealers can identify vulnerable people, so the cycle starts in their early teens. Any educational efforts need to be targeted along those lines. International tables are available, although I do not have them here.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney I do not have a table as such but we can provide that information. The information I was talking about concerned people in treatment for heroin abuse here. Their average age is 23.6 years, which is five or six years below the European norm. They are much younger than their counterparts in Europe. There are many aspects of the drug abuse problem which you will find from one city to another. It does not matter where you go, you will find it. In my introduction I was trying to point out a few unique aspects in Dublin, one of which is that drug addicts are younger.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Do you have any comparative figures for drink? People have been relating early drug taking to early drinking. Do we have any indications of the comparative ages at which people start to drink alcohol?

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney I do not have them with me but we will certainly get them for the committee.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Do you know off hand if the average age of those starting to drink is similar in other countries?

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney I would guess they are. Some of the anecdotal evidence I have seen suggests they are, but I will check the statistics.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell So these liberal parents who think it is all right for their children to drink may in some way be contributing to the drug problem?

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney Provided——

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Say yes.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney ——you can make a connection between moving from drink to taking drugs. Many people have not quite made that jump.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I have just offended half of my colleagues.

Mr. McLoughlin: I want to follow up on a point that Deputy Ardagh made in relation to the figures. I gave figures to the committee in a report which were up to date at that stage. The ones I gave are simply updated figures in terms of numbers and locations. Since it is often queried, I have given the actual names of every location where we provide treatment because people may not know about them.

I accept that there is more we can do in relation to community consultation. We are always learning. We were given an objective and a political mandate to cut waiting lists and to get rid of them. The process by which we do that involves consultation. In some areas we have been consulting for two years and we have still not had a patient treated. That is the situation on the ground. We have a staff of about 80 in all who are attending various subcommittees, be they partnerships or task forces. All are going through a training programme. People in communities tell us that when we go to public meetings some of the people who criticise us and say we will never get a drug treatment centre installed, actually have links to people who are dealing in drugs. People need to be aware of that reality when we are talking about the community. We do not know who is the community.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Regrettably you will also have people who are politically motivated, who are actively anti-drug, but for political reasons wish to prevent treatment.

Dr. Barry said that 58 per cent of heroin addicts were early school leavers. Fifty eight per cent of the school population are not early leavers - it is a much smaller percentage. Therefore, the incidence of drug addiction among early school leavers is several times higher than among the general community. Do we have any ratio?

Dr. Barry: I do not have the ratio. It is an international issue. It is not just in Ireland. There are patterns that you can identify where people who begin to leave school are very vulnerable because they do not have good literacy and they do not get jobs easily. Drug dealing is sophisticated, and the dealers can pick who will take drugs.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell We will come to the Department of Education and Children in a moment. Again it has been put to me that in the approaches to some of these clinics there are drug pushers dropping free samples of heroin to attract people on methadone back to heroin. Is that something the health board has experienced?

Mr. McLoughlin: It is something the staff are agreed on. It is claimed to happen more often than we believe it does. We cannot patrol the whole area, but we employ general assistants who are responsible for the internal management of the clinic in addition to ensuring that people do not loiter around it. If patients of the clinic are found to have been loitering it is taken up by the treating clinician. They may be able to go to an area.

Persons in treatment are subject to supervised urine testing as part of the treatment process, but I cannot put my hand on my heart and say that never does a dealer try to interfere with the treatment process.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell What percentage of those on methadone treatment falter?

Dr. Keenan: Approximately 75 per cent of people who are on methadone programmes are doing well in that there is a significant reduction in their illicit drug use and a significant increase in the stability in their own and their families’ lives. Of the other 25 per cent, a small corps would consistently provide dirty urine samples and would be on and off programmes while others would be in and out of dabbling with heroin. Methadone stabilisation and a methadone maintenance programme offers a great hope for drug users to produce stability in their lives.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Turning to City Wide, is it your experience that there is a problem with drug pushers lying in wait near clinics, trying to attract addicts back onto heroin?

Ms McCann: That is not our experience. I have not heard much about that from the drug treatment centres. On the question of treatment and community support, some of the ongoing difficulties between local communities and the health board relate to interpretation about what terms mean. For example, with regard to the right treatment, the view of a local drug treatment centre may differ from that of local people in regard to the term “stable”. In a drug treatment centre stability means opiate free apart from the methadone, which is a therapeutic drug. By contrast, with local people, stability is in the lifestyle in the sense of what a person is doing. With the growth of drug treatment there is also a growth in tablet use and alcohol use is quite high.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell By tablet do you mean valium?

Ms McCann: Valium, tranquillisers and anti-depressants. At community level we see that the various sections of the health board are involved with drug users. For example, the drug treatment centre may be involved in drug treatment where it is prescribing methadone. The psychiatric clinic may be involved for mental health reasons and may be prescribing anti-depressants and the GP may be involved in prescribing tranquillisers. Local people do not see these three sections working well together and they become confused about that. I know members attending this meeting are aware of this.

These are some of the issues which the committee, when considering the economics of the situation, could also ask questions on. Could we organise a better, holistic approach to drug users so that some of those services can come together and so that we can apply the same drug treatment to the issue of other drug use apart from opiates, including alcohol?

On the question of community support, we have all had dealings with people from the health board and they are very supportive in many ways of the work we have been doing. Again, there can be differences at times regarding interpretation. What is a community programme? What is community support? What does that mean? Sometimes the health board needs community help to implement something, sometimes what the communities want is for the health board to give them money for what they want to do. That can cause some problems. We could be greatly assisted if we could hear more about the difficulties the different sections are finding in working together, as well as the difficulties they have in working with local communities. We would be well on the way to making better use of our money if we could look at the difficulties encountered by the different sections and see if they can be solved.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Mr. Mooney, with regard to the holistic approach and the multiple prescribing of different drugs for different illnesses in the same patient, is there any way the failure to co-ordinate that can be overcome? On the question of the commitment to rehabilitation so that people can plan and the idea of a continuity of finance, is that something for which provision is being made by the Department of Health and Children?

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney We have been more or less in emergency response mode to this problem for a number of years. The emphasis is now beginning to focus much more on rehabilitation in so far as we in the health services have responsibility for it because rehabilitation in the context of reintegrating people back into the community in the widest sense is a problem that goes much wider than the health services as such, but is one we are very conscious of. We will be working with the health agencies on it.

The problem of the multiple prescribing of drugs in relation to drug addicts is a specific issue which we will have to try to address with the health agencies, but it is not peculiar to drug addicts. Presumably it gets back to the good practice of the general practitioner who, when faced with a patient, will verify that the patient is not on other GP lists. That could happen other than with drug addicts. For example, if abuse comes to our attention we investigate it very promptly. It could happen at a lower level that one would indicate persistent or endemic abuse and in that case we might not get to it as quickly.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell So Ms Quigley can be reassured on the question of the commitment to rehabilitation and the resources available?

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney Yes.

Dr. Barry: On the question of rehabilitation, the national drugs strategy team and the task forces have produced recommendations for rehabilitation programmes in communities that have had full support within the task forces. However, that does not necessarily imply that the whole community supports them. In trying to reopen the rehabilitation centre one could still run into a lot of prejudice because there are people who could avail of good quality rehabilitation at a holistic level. However, this is about acceptance. It is not just methadone; it applies to a lot of basic resources for drug takers. Many people do not——

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I wish shortly to make a general comment on the famous destruction of the village of Inchicore and the issue of the approach of the health board. Mr. Gallagher, you are now the drugs guru in the Eastern Health Board. Would you like to say a few words on your overall approach or your priorities?

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Pat Gallagher Zoom on Pat Gallagher We will continue the policies that are in place, but recognising the need to focus more clearly on the rehabilitation side, an integral approach is required to the three aspects of the service, which are prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. My colleagues mentioned that we have had to deal with the crisis in getting people into treatment. We must now look at the social side of that, recognising the social problems and trying to do something about them. One aspect is to focus on prevention while another is to focus on rehabilitation. That would be my priority.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell What about the queues, including the 600 people on the waiting list referred to by Mr. McLoughlin? Can you give a tangible indication of when you hope waiting lists will be a thing of the past?

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Pat Gallagher Zoom on Pat Gallagher I could not indicate a specific timescale. We have outlined that we want to have another seven to nine units up and running this year. If we can get those in place we should deal with most of the waiting list.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell People are waiting months in some cases.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Pat Gallagher Zoom on Pat Gallagher That is correct.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell They are living chaotic lifestyles and it is afflicting many other people, including their own families. That is urgent.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Pat Gallagher Zoom on Pat Gallagher We know the areas where there are waiting lists. We know the areas in which we must put in place addiction centres.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell From my experience, the Eastern Health Board used to contribute to a major part of the problem. I have seen major improvements in the past year and I now see the health board as part of the solution. People have made much of the resistance by communities to health board proposals for clinics. I feel strongly that the policy of localising the problem is the right one. Politicians, in particular, have a duty to lead in that respect but they should not lead regardless of the consequences. Fourteen, 15, 16 or 17 years ago in my village, Inchicore, I led calls for the acceptance of treatment at a chemist shop, A. C. Boles Limited, and it was the worst thing I ever did as a public representative. The assurances I received from the then Secretary of the Department of Health were never met and more than 500 drug addicts were drawn in for treatment to a village, which was then systematically denuded of all of its services as everybody withdrew.

The message, “do not let happen to our community what happened to Inchicore”, went around the communities of Dublin and every proposal for a local clinic was seen in the context of the chemist shop, A. C. Boles Limited. That position has improved under the methadone protocolumn Dr. Barry, how many people are being treated at A. C. Boles Limited in Inchicore and how many were treated there at its peak?

Dr. Barry: Forty. We would not necessarily have known how many were treated there at its peak. If you recall, Chairman, when we used meet the people from Inchicore, the problem before the protocol was introduced was that the doctor would just write a prescription for 50 ml. for Mr. John X and he did not have to state where the person should go to receive it whereas now we know how many patients are with any given general practitioner and pharmacy. As you stated, the protocol has considerably improved the situation which pertained. We continue to monitor each place. As Mr. McLoughlin stated, there are 155 pharmacies in Dublin, which is a big increase from three or four years ago.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell That is great. Dr. Boles, who has been much criticised for providing the service, was doing a public service when nobody else would do it but in the process he destroyed the community which his family has served for generations. It has been a very difficult problem but at least now it is more under control. It is off-putting that the Eastern Health Board is still persisting with proposals to put a counselling service a few doors away despite assurances to the contrary.

Mr. McLoughlin: There were no assurances to the contrary. There were assurances that we would not proceed with that location until the situation had improved with A. C. Boles Limited. I believe we have delivered on that and we have now gone through the process.

With regard to Inchicore, I was only about two months in the post when a group of public representatives came in with a group from the community and we worked out an agreement. We notified the community leaders about it on 23 December 1996. Within a month those people were told they were not representative. There was another group established which represented over 40 groups. Following a two year process of consultation and the health board attending fortnightly meetings, an agreement was reached on a premises which was not acceptable to some people in the community but which was acceptable to that community group. We had said at the time that were any other premises available we would be prepared to look at it, but no other premises has been identified. We have now gone into the process of planning permission. The commitment I gave was that we would not press ahead with it until the community saw the benefits. We have made sure that the numbers at A. C. Boles Limited do not go beyond those which I quoted.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I do not agree with about three quarters of what you just said but I will not argue with you about that. Certainly, the A. C. Boles Limited situation has improved after years of pleading by me and other public representatives, meetings with Ministers and chief executives of the health board and resistance. That was facilitated by localised services and A. C. Boles Limited is not now serving the whole city and county. That is a move in the right direction.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan Will Dr. Barry give the committee a statistical analysis of how long on average people spend on methadone? He need not answer now but I ask him to come up with some statistical analysis of the maximum period people spend on the methadone programme. Theoretically, I know they can spend decades on it but are they spending decades on it?

Dr. Barry: We can produce figures. The central methadone treatment list began in 1993. There are approximately 3,700 people on it now. We could provide a print-out of the length of time the current 3,700 people have been on the programme. That will give the committee some flavour of it.

Mr. Tony O’Gorman, assistant chief inspector, Department of Education and Science, called and examined.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Mr. O’Gorman, please introduce your colleagues to the committee.

Mr. O’Gorman: With me are Ms Margaret Kelly, principal officer in the further education section, Mr. Pat Shiel, principal officer in the social inclusion unit, and Mr. Camillus Hogan, the Department’s nominee on the national drugs strategy team. I am responsible in the Department for the development and introduction of prevention education programmes in schools in respect of substance misuse. My colleagues can supplement what I say by reference to their areas of responsibility, including out of school provision.

I will give a brief account of the main school programmes to begin the discussion. The role of the Department is the support role deriving from its particular function to provide advice and support for school managements and teachers and, in this particular area, to provide that support in co-operation with other agencies and groups. In its approach to supporting schools and introducing substance misuse prevention programmes, the Department includes alcohol and tobacco as well as other drugs, both legal and illegal.

Another point I should make before referring to particular programmes is that the involvement of the Department in the development and introduction of these programmes in schools has been to date and is currently on a purely voluntary basis on the part of schools at both primary and post-primary levels. It is important to make that point. There may be some change in that particular area in the near future and I will refer to that shortly.

There are a number of issues which have influenced the programmes which we have developed and which have been introduced. We know that the image which children and young people develop of themselves is important in the context of the misuse of all drugs. We know from the general body of research that in order to help young people in this area they need to be helped to understand influences, what is influencing their behaviour and the choices they make. Arising from that, it is known that what is important in all education programmes and in school programmes in particular is to develop the social and personal skills of young people so that they are able to cope with these influences or, to put it bluntly, so that they are able to more effectively say “no” in situations where it is important for them to do so. If programmes are to have an influence, we are aware that it is important to ensure their early introduction. It is also important to take account of the environment, including that of family and community, in which a child or young person lives.

I wish to highlight three major programmes, one of which is aimed at primary schools. I refer to this programme first because it relates to primary education and it was the most recently introduced of the three. This programme was developed for schools over a three year period which began in the middle of 1996 and it involved three aspects: a substance misuse prevention programme involving information for parents and teachers; the development of educational resource materials and associated in-career development for teachers on substance misuse prevention; and the targeting of schools in areas where there is a noticeable incidence of substance misuse.

In terms of information awareness, a booklet on drugs misuse prevention for parents was developed and this was provided to parents and teachers by schools. Representatives of parents were also included in school-staff seminars which were organised for teachers in connection with the development of the programme. Members of the development team for the project assisted in or contributed to organising approximately 50 local information awareness seminars during the course of the programme’s development.

During the development period detailed educational resource materials were prepared and developed for each class level in primary schools, from infants up to and including sixth class. This process was completed in the three year development period.

In-career development for teachers was part of the pilot phase process and it comprised in-school seminars for the entire staff complement of the schools involved with the Department in this work and long-term ongoing courses for teachers have been implemented in schools. The duration of these longer courses is approximately 30 hours.

The development of the programme was independently evaluated in addition to its being evaluated in the schools and by the project team. The overall cost up to the end of 1998, including the design and printing of resource materials in sufficient quantities to ensure their availability to schools, was over £500,000. At the end of the three year development period, the Department and the Minister decided to disseminate the programme to primary schools generally, a process which has already begun. A support team for the dissemination has been put in place consisting of a national project officer and five teacher trainers. The target is to disseminate the programme to 1,600 or approximately 50 per cent of primary schools by the end of 1999 and to complete the dissemination during the year 2000. Funding of £1 million has been allocated in respect of the dissemination process.

The development of the primary school substance misuse programme followed from the previous development of such a programme at post-primary level which was called “On my own two feet”. This was introduced in post-primary schools in early 1995 and its dissemination to those schools has been ongoing since then. As of now, it has been introduced in approximately 70 per cent of the country’s post-primary schools. The development of that programme was also independently evaluated.

The final major programme to which I wish to refer is the Irish Network of Health Promoting Schools which is, in a sense, a more long-term project, or rather the introduction of the outcomes of which will take place on a long-term basis. This network project focuses on developing supportive climates in schools for all health promotion, on actively involving parents and the local community with schools and on developing curricular modules for health promotion, including substance misuse. Therefore, it provides a broad framework for the other two programmes to which I referred. The dissemination of this programme has already commenced in the sense that a national dissemination conference was held in mid-February last. It is proposed to follow up on that with regional dissemination seminars in co-operation with the health authorities.

That is a brief outline of the introduction of substance misuse education programmes in schools. With reference to the health promoting schools network in particular, apart from introducing the actual programmes we are also concerned with seeking to change the culture of schools in a general way so that they are more open to the active involvement of parents and local communities. That will not happen overnight but it is one of our aims. Some of my colleagues may wish to supplement what I have said.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell We were informed earlier that 58 per cent of drug addicts are early school leavers. What is the Department doing in respect of the problem of early school leaving which leads to much wider problems than those involving drugs and places people at a disadvantage for life? I was surprised Mr. O’Gorman did not refer to early school leaving in his presentation.

Mr. O’Gorman: As stated earlier, my particular responsibility relates to the introduction of the programmes, to which I referred, in schools. Some of my colleagues can supplement what I said by referring to their areas of responsibility. A range of programmes have been introduced, the co-ordination of which has been aimed at the problem of early school leaving. I will invite my colleague, Ms Kelly, to comment on that issue.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Does Ms Kelly have statistics in her possession in respect of the percentage of children who drop out of school?

Ms Kelly: Yes. First, an annual school leavers survey is commissioned from the ESRI each year by the Departments of Education and Science and Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The latest survey, published in December 1998, shows that 81 per cent of the total population will complete second level education, up to and including the leaving certificate. At the bottom of the ladder, approximately 900 people do not transfer from primary to second level education.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell What is that in percentage terms?

Ms Kelly: It is about 1.7 per cent of the primary cohort. Another 2,200, 3.2 per cent, start post primary but leave school before completion of the junior cycle. Another 10,800, 15.9 per cent, leave school with the junior certificate but without completing the leaving certificate. Adding the second level element of that cohort, 81 per cent complete up to leaving certificate with 19 per cent dropping out. There have been dramatic improvements in participation rates in earlier years. For instance, the retention rate in 1986 was 70 per cent; now it is 81 per cent. The last couple of years have shown a plateauing, so to speak; it has varied from 82 to 81 per cent over that last three years of the survey. While we had a target to reach 90 per cent completion rate by 2000, the achievement of that target is not in sight.

My responsibilities are in the further education area, which are mostly adult education, adult literacy, VTOS, post leaving certificate courses but also the Youthreach programme for people who are over 15 but have left school without even a junior certificate. Youthreach is delivered jointly by FÁS and the vocational education committees. It is overseen by an interdepartmental steering committee and aided by the European Social Fund.

A number of evaluations have been critical. While they said that the Youthreach programme works in itself and is very successful, they were critical that there was an inadequate number of places and too few people were progressing to a second year of the programme. If people just come back, get a foundation programme and then take up employment it tends to be low skilled, unstable work and they can very quickly end up back where they started.

The other area of criticism was that the support services around Youthreach were inadequate and we have been lobbying for quite a while to get improvements on that front. As part of the mid-term review of the EU Structural Funds, we got a major package focused on early school leaving. As part of that package 2,637 extra early school leaver places were approved in 1998 across FÁS and the vocational education committees. That brings the total from 4,525 to 7,162.

It is a major expansion and took place for two reasons. First, to cater for the backlog of customers that had built up who did not have access to a programme and, second, to provide a second year so that people would have wider progression options to stay in second chance education and training. We have widened the options there by introducing tailor made programmes within Youthreach centres with opportunities to do the Leaving Certificate applied programme within a Youthreach setting and through expansions under the FÁS regime of extra places in Community Training Workshops, within FÁS mainline centres and linked work Experience and other major programmes.

We have moved from an under supply of places to a virtual over supply because in the meantime the employment market has picked up very considerably and now we have a difficulty keeping people on the programme because they are attracted outside. Although we pay a training allowance it does not equate with a wage and they are attracted out of the programme. This year we are trying to build up the flexibility of our overall suite of further education programmes through the development of part-time options so that even if people are pulled out into work they will be able to keep on their education and training. In the meantime we have made major progress in introducing national certification within Youthreach under the National Council for Vocational Awards.

Another element of the package was that we got money from the EU for a guidance counselling and psychological service for Youthreach and we convened an inter-agency task force which comprised the full range of interests to make recommendations as to how the measures should be delivered. It includes us, FÁS, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Probation and Welfare Service, the Department of Health and Children Promotion Unit, and the juvenile liaison service of the Garda. They made recommendations on a framework for the delivery of this counselling service.

We are trying to cater for a full spectrum of needs ranging from career guidance information to counselling, educational psychologists and psychiatric help for some people with acute problems. We have a district approach where at local level the vocational education committees convene meetings of all the interests in the area, including area partnerships, youth services, community groups, FÁS, vocational education committees, etc., so that they can decide and make sure they do not duplicate services and build up an expansion of Youthreach that denudes some other programme. We are trying to get a co-ordinated approach at that level right across the system.

Following from that, the priority at local level was expert counselling. The money was granted in the middle of 1998 to vocational education committees across the system to enable them to employ counsellors on an outreach basis so that they are scheduled to visit centres on a systematic basis but there is an emergency help as well. One of the difficulties is that if people are feeling suicidal or there is a major problem they must have the intervention there and then. It is no good giving them an appointment for three weeks time which was a difficulty we had to date. The counselling service is up and running and we will consolidate that development in 1999. We got an extra £250,000 in funding for it and so far about 1,700 Youthreach trainees have accessed specialist support under the counselling service.

The counselling and psychological service is twofold; one is to support the staff in dealing with the problem cases and the other is to give expert support to the actual trainees as and when they need it. It is up and running, working and we will consolidate development in 1999. In the meantime another priority is to give front line counselling skills to all the staff in Youthreach. With co-operation from an EU Community Initiative we have a consortium with the National Centre for Guidance in Education which has commissioned programmes that are starting on an in-service basis for the staff. They are run in co-operation with the universities in Dublin, Cork and St. Angela’s College, Sligo, and one will start in Limerick in September.

The substance abuse prevention programme, which is a second level programme, is in use in all Youthreach centres throughout the country and staff from all the centres have participated in training. We also have a more explicit programme because we are dealing with the very acute end of the spectrum in that programme. We call it “Copping On” and it is jointly funded by ourselves, FÁS and the Prison Service. The Garda juvenile liaison service is involved but it does not have direct funds. It trains Youthreach staff, youth workers, juvenile liaison service and probation and welfare service workers together. Again, they are challenging their behaviour, promoting attitudinal change not just on the issue of drug abuse but also on crime and alcohol abuse, sex, handling conflict and dealing with relationships. It is an integrated model to challenge their behaviour. It is in use and has a full-time support service and has an inter-agency approach.

Youthreach is targeted at people from 15 years of age upwards and there are still gaps in the system for people who leave earlier and are not picked up until they reach 15 years. The other gap is in tracking. Despite the best efforts of schools working with FÁS, the Garda, the Youthreach centres, etc., we do not have systematic tracking to ensure that nobody falls through the loop. We introduced a new project last year called the 8-15 year old initiative which has a range of projects but also has a research strand. As part of that, the Education Research Centre has been commissioned to advise us on the development of a tracking measure to track people at primary level and into post-primary. Tied in with that are plans to shortly publish new school attendance legislation which will——

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I have heard that for the past ten years.

Ms Kelly: I have seen drafts.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I have also heard that for the past ten years. I was going to ask you about school attendance.

Ms Kelly: When the school attendance legislation comes to fruition, it will raise the school leaving age to 16, but more importantly——

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan I thought you were going to say 60.

Ms Kelly: ——it will establish an educational welfare service where people will be employed to do the legwork. It is not enough to know who leaves school. There must be legwork to follow them up, to knock on their doors and induce them to come into an appropriate programme, and to deal with liaison and with local interests. The educational welfare service will do that.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Much of the problem would be dealt with earlier if there were a proper school attendance service. I know large areas of my constituency have been without a school attendance officer for years. School principals have approached me and I have raised the matter in the Dáil. Every year it is stated a Bill will be drafted and you say the same thing now. You mentioned there was still inadequate provision for the under-15s and that is exactly where school attendance is important.

You have given a comprehensive rundown, two areas of which I wish to ask about. Regarding home-school liaison, children dropping out is indicative in the vast majority of cases of problems in the home. What about home-school liaison and help? This probably also applies to the Departments of Health and Children and Social, Community and Family Affairs. What help, education or personal development courses are available for parents? Do you have a regional breakdown of the drop-out figures you gave?

Ms Kelly: No, I do not.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Do we know if there is any one part of the country worse than others?

Ms Kelly: The evidence the ESRI produced in the past shows that, overall, about 16 per cent of the population is disadvantaged and there are concentrations of disadvantage in urban areas, but looking at the numbers who drop out early and contrary to popular belief, they are dispersed over a wide rural area. Rural drop-outs are, therefore, numerically bigger, but the concentrations are in urban areas.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell The number of rural drop-outs is larger?

Ms Kelly: Obviously, because overall there are more rural than urban settings within the Republic. There would also be high drop-out rates in Border counties.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell What about the home-school liaison question, home support and personal development for parents?

Ms Kelly: I go back to the preventative front. All research shows that problems of early school leaving are multi-faceted and no single strategy will work on its own. Therefore, there must be an integrated approach with a continuum of supports from early childhood right through to adulthood. The strategy would be early start pre-schooling in disadvantaged areas, extra resources for schools in disadvantaged areas, the criteria for allocating both extra staff and extra non-pay funds for books and materials, curricular reforms to try to make the system more relevant to people’s needs and extra supports to address literacy difficulties because that is a critical area. It is a process of disenchantment which starts when people start falling behind at school with literacy and numeracy difficulties. As time goes on, they get more alienated. Youthreach tell us that for the vast majority it could have been the right decision for them to leave because school was simply not meeting their needs and it was perceived as irrelevant.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Perhaps it alienated them further.

Ms Kelly: Yes, research shows schools have tended to be middle class institutions across the world, that they have tended to be very academic and have concentrated on a very narrow band of skill areas. What we are trying to do with curricular reform is widen it out into new skill areas and strengthen the vocational, technical and practical relevance of programmes. However, with staff development, you also have to encourage attitudinal change and an awareness of what real life is like in disadvantaged communities.

We have a new initiative focused on eight to 15 year olds which is project based. About £3 million has been provided for it and 14 projects are being funded. There must be a consortium of interests involved so that there would be an integrated, in-school and out of school strategy. The type of people involved are youth and community groups and partnerships working in tandem with school staff so that there is curricular change and flexibility within schools, increased awareness, complementary night time activities and summer programmes and extra supports in the form of guidance and counselling. It might even involve providing a bus to get children to school, which gets them out of bed in the morning. A range of additional supports is being developed.

More important, the project is encouraging attitudinal change within the formal system and an awareness that we do not have all the answers and that we must listen more openly to the community sector. It is only through that cross-fertilisation of expertise that a successful strategy can be provided. Behind the eight to 15 year old project is a commitment that this will document good practice and will lead to mainstreaming. That is why the research strand is part of the project. However, we have a long way to go.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell Is there co-ordination between the Department of Education and Science and the Departments of Health and Children, Social, Community and Family Affairs and Justice, Equality and Law Reform? Where it is manifest that there are problems in the home and where a multi-faceted approach is needed, maybe multi-faceted assistance to the home might solve or alleviate the problems of the school?

Ms Kelly: With the eight to 15 year old initiative, welfare interests would be part of the consortium involved in the delivery of services. There is a range of social inclusion fora where the Department of Education and Science takes an interdepartmental role and is one of a range of players which would include the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Social, Community and Family Affairs. At the labour market end of the spectrum, it would involve the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Taoiseach’s Office and the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation, in the context of local development and area partnerships.

Under the local development programme for area partnerships, the Department of Education and Science pays for an education co-ordinator to support the work of each of the 38 area partnerships. We also have a national education co-ordinator who is based in ADM to support that work and we have a liaison team which works closely with them and provides staff development support for the initiative. Maybe my colleagues would know more. I deal with the further education end.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan Zoom on Philip Hogan Officials from the Department sit on 26 committees and we have been asked to sit on another 21, including the 13 local drugs task forces.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell What does that say about committees? They take minutes and waste hours, this committee excluded.

Mr. Hogan: Information on Philip Hogan Zoom on Philip Hogan On the drugs initiative, 74 projects are being funded by the Department through the vocational education committees, amounting to £1.6 million. About £1.2 million of that has been drawn down and about 98 per cent of the projects are drawing down funding. That is from the £10 million of which you spoke earlier.

On the youth side, we are funding the grants scheme for projects to assist disadvantaged youth. About £6.5 million is being spent there on about 150 projects. We are addressing out of school projects under that.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell What about home-school liaison? Who is responsible for that?

Ms Kelly: Most schools in the disadvantaged areas scheme have a home-school liaison co-ordinator whose role is not to work with children but to concentrate on working with parents, developing additional activities that will support parents in supporting their children’s learning and encouraging attitudinal change within the school, such as changes in classroom organisation and practice that will make their programme more relevant to disadvantaged areas. There are 217 home-school liaison co-ordinators appointed to schools in disadvantaged areas across primary and post-primary level, so not all schools that are designated as disadvantaged have a home-school liaison service.

A change announced in the budgetary package in December for 1999 was a commitment that all schools at primary and post-primary level will have access to a remedial service for dealing with learning difficulties and that all schools in disadvantaged areas will get a home-school liaison co-ordinator. That commitment will come on stream with the extra money in 1999. It will involve the employment of 450 extra teachers across primary and secondary level.

Another area of key importance is identifying learning difficulties early and putting supports in place so that they are addressed. A key issue is having a national educational psychological service. During 1998 a report was produced recommending such a service to serve the needs of schools, never mind out of school programmes. That would require approximately 200 psychologists. We have provided 15 extra psychologists in 1998 and another 25 will be appointed in 1999. An extra £1.5 million will be spent under the budgetary package to bring that to fruition on a phased basis. There will be developments in the future and we will have a statutory educational welfare service as well as the national educational psychological service as an executive agency of the Department of Education and Science.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte For the first time I am speechless. If Ms Kelly was Secretary General of the Department there would be no need for it to appear before this Committee. That has answered all my questions.

Without going back over the matter, does Mr. O’Gorman feel. that the Green Isle Accord has been implemented? That accord is the page and a half of recommendations in the report of the ministerial task force - Mr. Dennehy will explain why it is called the Green Isle Accord.

Mr. O’Gorman: I think all the recommendations in the first report of the task force have, to a greater or lesser extent, been addressed, some with more success than others. There are particular issues that relate to some of the recommendations. For instance some of the projects mentioned in the recommendations, such as Early Start and Breaking the Cycle, have to be seen by the Department as going through a process of evaluation before they can be considered.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Mr. O’Gorman’s colleague made a very impressive intervention and her contribution will bear re-reading with regard to initiatives, but one of them related to the home-school liaison teachers. I agree with the Chairman that it has been a splendid initiative and the recommendation was that the scheme would be extended on a phased basis to each school in the priority areas designated. We are still in a position where it has not been extended, some three years later, to some of the disadvantaged areas.

Mr. O’Gorman: That is true but a process of extension has happened. As Ms Kelly indicated, the target is to have a home-school liaison teacher for every school in the disadvantaged scheme.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Is there a timeframe for that? In a manner of speaking this is causing envy, in that similarly disadvantaged communities are cheek by jowl, and teachers and parents can see how well the scheme works in one area while they wonder why they cannot have it in their area, given that income levels are the same. Is there an objective for the extension of the scheme to disadvantaged areas?

Mr. O’Gorman: I think there is, but I want to be sure of the accuracy of that.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Ms Kelly referred to language. One recommendation was that information campaigns should be more targeted and developed in consultation with the community and voluntary groups. Parents have said that if they brought in leaflets prepared by a Government Department to some of the schools where this is a particular problem, they might as well be speaking double Dutch. There is a local argot and if something is not explained in that language it goes over people’s heads. Has progress been made on that front?

Mr. O’Gorman: Our Department is not primarily concerned with information campaigns. We see that as being more in the province of the Department of Health and Children and the health boards.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Why is that? The Department is responsible for schools and some of the most valuable work I have seen has been done by parents who have formed groups to go into classrooms and tell children about the consequences of drug taking. That seems an education role.

Mr. O’Gorman: I am sorry, I probably misunderstood. I should have said that a core objective of the school programmes is the active participation and involvement of parents with teachers and the school in prevention. That is a core objective. An early outcome of the introduction of these programmes has been an increase in the direct and active involvement of parents with schools. For example, probably for the first time in our training programmes teachers and parents have taken courses together. Obviously, different schools are at different levels of development and we are seeking a change in school culture, which inevitably takes time. There are good and important exemplars of that form of involvement.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte What about the “On My Own Two Feet” project? Has that been extended to all disadvantaged schools?

Mr. O’Gorman: This is a post-primary programme and is in approximately 70 per cent of schools - 526 out of the 760 schools. With regard to disadvantaged schools, in Dublin we can identify approximately 100 post-primary schools which serve and accept disadvantaged areas. These are the 12 areas in which there are local task forces. The post-primary programme “On My Own Two Feet” has been introduced to 77 of those 100 schools.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte To what extent has the recommendation in the drugs report for in-service training for teachers been implemented? I will be sending the text of this to Senator O’Toole in due course.

Mr. O’Gorman: In-service training has been and is being introduced in the context of the development of those programmes, both the post-primary programme “On My Own Two Feet” and the primary programme “Walk Tall”. During the development phase staff training seminars were organised for every one of the primary schools which co-operated in the development of the programme. In addition, during the development phase, approximately 20 long-term courses were organised for teachers, each lasting approximately 30 hours, so there were substantial training programmes.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Do you accept that there are entire teaching staffs in certain schools in parts of Dublin where the problem is most grievous and who require a familiarity with this phenomenon? As I understand it, in so far as I interface with them, they say that the provision is not there and that the pressures on them for one reason or another, including getting results from pupils, exam pressure and so on, mean they do not have the skills needed to cope with something that is of epidemic proportions in certain areas. This is a different phenomenon than a middle class school surrounded by a hinterland where the parents are well able to plough their own furrow and pay for services if necessary or even go to the High Court to stop drug centres. By contrast, it is a different situation in working class areas. Teachers tell me they are not equipped.

Mr. O’Gorman: It would be fair to say that the provision is there. All our work here is done in conjunction with our colleagues in the Department of Health and Children. We have close working relationships on the ground with the developing health promotions personnel of the health boards and we look forward to that increasing. Since the introduction of the post-primary programme “On My Own Two Feet” in early 1995, there have been approximately 80 training programmes for teachers. During that time more than 1,500 teachers have attended those courses. They are substantial training courses, recognising the need for teachers to have skills. Each year every post-primary school in the country - these courses were organised at locations which were convenient for the teacher - was offered the opportunity to participate and we would have been delighted to put on more courses.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Is there a national drugs co-ordinator in education?

Mr. O’Gorman: My responsibility is for the school programmes. We have a national projects officer for the primary school dissemination programme and a national co-ordinator for the health promotion school network. We do not have a national co-ordinator for the post-primary programme “On My Own Two Feet”.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Who does one contact in the Department of Education and Science?

Mr. O’Gorman: I am the person to contact in connection with the school programmes.

Deputy Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I know that only because I am a member of this committee. If I was not a member of this committee and was concerned with the education dimension of the drugs issue, who would I contact?

Mr. O’Gorman: One would contact the communications section of the Department which would put one through to the relevant person. I get a number of calls and am happy to take them and answer them to the best of my ability.

Deputy Ardagh: Information on Seán Ardagh Zoom on Seán Ardagh In the past couple of years I did a survey in my constituency on early school leaving and found that in the south-west corner of the constituency, which is affluent and middle class, I had no problem in retrieving forms. Respondents were pleased and proud to say that they had one or no early school leavers. Yet, with the schools located towards the inner city there was a significant number of early school leavers, with requests for the schools not to be identified. I am not sure if I accept the statistic that 81 per cent of those at school complete their education in the inner city, say, by the canals.

Mr. O’Gorman: No.

Deputy Ardagh: Information on Seán Ardagh Zoom on Seán Ardagh This meeting is concerned with the drugs initiative. We got an excellent presentation from Ms Kelly on the Early Start and Youthreach programmes; it was very informative. We are concerned with the heroin and opiate problem, especially in the drug task force areas that are listed. I do not believe that has been properly addressed in the presentation by the Department of Education and Science officials attending this meeting.

I attend the Dolphin House and Fatima Mansions task forces occasionally. There are a number of people there, mainly mothers, who try to work together to form a pre-school or early school group and who seek assistance from the Department of Education and Science. I take Mr. Hogan’s comment that officials of the Department sit on 26 committees and have been asked to sit on 21 others. I do not know how many representatives of the Eastern Health Board also sit on such committees, but I suggest that they are sitting on a greater number than that in the drugs task force areas. Similarly with Dublin Corporation.

The Department of Education and Science has a responsibility in this matter which it is abdicating. It is not giving the service that is so badly needed to people and the communities in these areas. The Department offers no back-up, help or shoulder to lean on. What are the views of City Wide? Do you believe I am going overboard on this? Finally I would like to hear the response of the Department.

Ms Quigley: Mr. Hogan referred to the 21 additional committees the Department has been asked to sit on. An issue that arose in the evaluation of the local drugs task forces was the representation from the Department of Education and Science. This issue would arise on a recurring basis through partnership structures and task forces. The Department’s representation on the task forces is at VEC level. At local level it is often somebody who works for the VEC, for instance, in a youth project. It is a person who, in terms of the Department, is a long way removed from any policy development role. This has caused problems at community level, particularly with regard to schools. It is a situation where people at community level are caught because the Department will say that each school is an independent body with an independent management board which makes its own decisions. The schools, in turn, will say they cannot do certain things because the Department does not mandate or fund them.

There is a real issue that in some schools, particularly in the Tallaght area, there are very good working relationships between local community groups and schools on the drugs issue and much successful pilot work is being done. Other schools simply do not want to know about the drug problem in their area because it might create a bad image for the school.

The question of who will take responsibility can be difficult for communities in the sense that the Department is not involved in the task force process to the extent where a school that refuses to get involved can have pressure put on it to do so. Certainly there would be a sense within communities that the policy makers within the Department should be involved. I mean no disrespect to the work of the youth workers in the VEC projects, but they are not policy makers. This is an issue that leads to the kind of problems being talked about.

The Department of Education and Science is probably seen at community level as being extremely centralised and part of that comes back to the schools which say they can do nothing without the Department. In some cases it suits the schools to say that but that is certainly the perception.

Ms McCann: I agree with that. I do not think Ms Quigley is overstating how the communities feel about the Department of Education and Science. They feel unsupported by the Department because they do not often meet officials from the Department. I am aware that the psychological services in particular have been very active and worked very hard over many years to have programmes put in place. There is an issue for the Department of Education and Science to take on, whether it is with regard to structures or how it mans the committees. We are aware that manning the committees is a big demand - it is a big demand on us too. We have to go to many more meetings than we did in the past. It is an important Department to provide leadership. The people in the community already have a relationship with the schools.

My experience of working with teachers within the primary drugs programmes is that many of them are angry because they do the training in their own time. They do not feel valued as the training is undertaken outside their working day and this is not recognised in extra days holidays. This is an issue which must be addressed within the implementation of the primary schools programme.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell If they get any more days off, they will not be working at all. I have very little tolerance for that considering the number of hours that we and, I am sure, you work.

Ms McCann: I accept that.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I am going to summarise now.

Deputy C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan Zoom on Conor Lenihan Have we got a reaction from the Department of Finance regarding a cost benefit analysis of the programme?

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell I will come to that. We have had a very useful discussion and I am grateful to everybody for participating. It is clear that progress has been made and each Department and agency seems to be more on top of the problem than a year ago. That is not to say that there is not room for a great deal of progress.

The Committee is not involved in policy but in costs and its members, as public representatives, are interested in policy. The purpose of the Committee is to ensure that we get value for public money, that where money is needed and there can be a tangible return, it is provided and that where money is being wasted it is stopped.

It is not easy to get a handle on the total economic cost of the drugs problems but it is something that we are going to have to attempt. Part of that economic cost is the Exchequer cost. Different figures were mentioned by the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Health and Children. The health boards mentioned a figure of £17.615 million. I would like an overall assessment of the total spent by the State, to see if there are gaps in the expenditure and to ascertain whether we are getting value for money.

On the other side, what is the cost to the State of the absence of expenditure in anti-drugs treatment in terms of more patients being imprisoned? How much would be saved if we could divert even half of the drug addicts who are in prison to be patients rather than prisoners? What would it save the State in direct prison costs and other social costs?

The other area the Committee must consider is future costs to the State and this is where the Department of Education and Science in particular has a role. I agree with members who said that the presentation by the Department has been impressive, but there is a perception that not enough is being done to nip the problem in the bud in so far as that is possible. It is obvious that more needs to be done to minimise early school leaving and to get behind the causes of it.

If it is the case that 19 per cent of students leave school before the leaving certificate and 58 per cent of those with drug problems are early school leavers, that means the 81 per cent who represent the students who finish school, only end up being 42 per cent of the drug problem. On a quick calculation it is six times more likely for an early school leaver to end up as a drug addict than a person who finishes their education. It is a very telling figure. Nipping the early school leaving problem in the bud must be a priority for the future.

The main problem centres around the Eastern Health Board area. In my view, the Eastern Health Board has improved its performance greatly in this respect and I hope it continues to do so. Past legacies represent obstacles to be overcome but I believe they are overcoming them. We need some tangible indication as to when waiting lists are going to be abolished. When there is a crisis people need attention, not in three weeks time or in three months time. That is what is happening with the 600 people on the waiting list for drug treatment in the Eastern Health board area. They are in crisis but they have been told to wait while they drown. They continue to be a social problem for themselves, their family and their community. We need an urgent indication of when waiting lists will be abolished which, of course, leads to major economic cost, never mind the social costs. Can we have a tangible date when waiting lists will be a thing of the past?

We also need to hear from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform about clear deadlines for the introduction of the drugs courts and treatment orders. There is an enormous cost saving involved in this. Anyone who reads the Denham report will be bowled over by confidence that it can alleviate this problem, based on what has been achieved in parts of the United States of America.

We greatly appreciate the commitment of City Wide and the volunteer members of the national drugs strategy team. The presentation by City Wide has been very illuminating and its presence is greatly appreciated. Co-ordinating so many different agencies and Departments is difficult. This has been done under the direction of the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation but the chairperson has been from the Department of Health and Children. This is difficult to manage but I cannot think of a better structure. Mr. Duggan has a major task on hand but he seems to cope well. The question was raised as to whether it is staffed appropriately by part-time people or whether the strategy team has sufficient staff of appropriate rank to pull rank in the Departments in order to obtain the necessary co-ordination and response. The committee will be raising these issues in writing in the next few weeks so that we can return to the matter in approximately six months time if progress has been made or tangible objectives have been set.

I wish to express my gratitude to all those who attended today. I appreciate that this is a complex problem and thank you for your commitment.

The committee will note the accounts for this year of the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation and return to the issue in October. Meanwhile, I will be in communication with the Secretary General to summarise in writing what I have just said and any other points which may occur to Members.

The witnesses withdrew.

Chairman: Information on Jim Mitchell Zoom on Jim Mitchell On the new arrangements regarding the publication of transcripts, it is proposed that henceforth the minutes of evidence unrevised, once compiled, should be laid before the Dáil, printed and published. Witnesses will no longer be requested to return transcripts within seven days showing proposed amendments. In the event of a witness wishing to comment on his or her evidence, he or she should do so in writing to the committee, whereupon the same will be given due consideration. A draft attached for agreement will be sent to all Departments, vocational education committees, health boards, etc. informing them of this, and official notifications of dates of meetings will also include this information. A draft letter is available for inspection.

The committee adjourned at 17.15 p.m.


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