Written Answers. - Drugs Task Force.

Tony Gregory

Question:

302 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science the arrangements, if any, made by his Department to provide representatives on the drugs task forces; and if the proposed arrangements are acceptable to the task force. [4926/00]

The question of Department of Education and Science representation on the local drugs task forces has been under consideration in my Department for some time.

I am aware that education issues and, in particular, tackling educational disadvantage and early school leaving, are of concern in many drugs task force areas. These core issues, which have been well documented by the ESRI and other agencies as key factors affecting the life chances of disadvantaged communities, are also of concern to the 38 area based partnerships operating under the local and urban development programme. Tackling educational disadvantage has also emerged as a critical issue in the four pilot integrated services process areas, which correspond to a number of local drugs task force areas.

My Department is already represented on the education and training sub-committees of each area based partnership by a Department inspec tor or psychologist. In addition, my Department has provided resources for the appointment of full-time and part-time education co-ordinators to support the work of partnerships in addressing educational disadvantage and preventing early school leaving. Virtually all of these partnerships correspond to the local drugs task force areas. Notwithstanding the aims and objectives of the partnerships and the local drugs task forces the educational issues for both agencies are essentially the same and the obvious way to address these issues is, in my view, for the local drugs task forces, the education and training sub-committees of the relevant partnerships and the four pilot integrated services process areas to establish linkages and contacts at local level.
In this context my Department has had discussions with Area Development Management Limited about nominating the partnership education co-ordinators as my Department's representatives on the local drugs task forces. ADM has advised that the education co-ordinators are very well placed to undertake this role and that it would provide a useful co-ordination at local level between partnerships and local drugs task forces.
My Department has recently written to Area Development Management Limited confirming its intention to proceed with the nomination of the education co-ordinators as its representatives on the local drugs task forces and requesting that the partnerships and the education co-ordinators be informed in this regard.
I am satisfied that this arrangement will give the local drugs task forces a specific forum in which education issues of concern to them can be addressed. Such close links between these agencies would also ensure the best use of State resources flowing into the targeted communities.