Written Answers. - National Drugs Strategy.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

576 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation if he will make a statement outlining his proposals for dealing with the drugs epidemic; if he will set out the background to the problem; the progress made to date; and the targets for future success in dealing with the matter. [7407/01]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

587 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation if he will make a statement setting out the role of his Department and any board, group or agency under the aegis of his Department, in combating the drugs problem, together with available statistics on the scale of the problem and forecasted figures for the next decade. [8006/01]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 576 and 587 together.

The overall aim of the Government's drugs strategy is to provide an effective, integrated response to the problems posed by drug misuse. Since 1997, local drugs task forces have also been set up in areas experiencing the worst levels of drug misuse, particularly heroin. The task forces bring together key State agencies to work with the local community and voluntary groups to develop appropriate responses to the local drug problem. In addition, the National Drugs Strategy Team, whose membership is drawn from Government Departments, State agencies and the community and voluntary sector, support and oversee the activities of the local drugs task forces.

The Government allocated £10 million in 1997 to support the implementation of measures contained in the action plans prepared by the task forces. More than 200 projects were allocated funding to deliver a range of interventions and over 120 of these projects have now been mainstreamed. Currently the task forces are updating their plans for the next three years and the Government has provided £15 million per annum for this purpose. To date, the Cabinet committee on social inclusion has approved funding of more than £3.6 million for six plans covering a variety of initiatives in the areas of prevention, education, treatment, rehabilitation and supply reduction.
As part of the Government's overall strategy to tackle drug misuse, the young people's facilities and services fund was established in 1998 to assist in the development of preventative measures in a targeted manner through the development of youth facilities, including sport and recreational facilities and services in disadvantaged areas where a significant drug problem existed or had the potential to develop. The aim of the fund is to attract at risk young people in disadvantaged areas into these facilities and divert them away from the dangers of substance misuse. The committee assessing the fund is chaired by my Department. More than £37 million has been allocated by Government to support more than 340 facility and services projects under the fund.
The National Advisory Committee on Drugs was established by the Government in July 2000. Its key role is to advise Government in relation to prevalence, prevention, treatment and consequences of the drug problem in Ireland, based on the committee's analysis and interpretation of research findings and information available to it. It will oversee the delivery of a three year prioritised programme of research and evaluation on the extent, nature, causes and effects of drug misuse in Ireland. Estimating the scale of problem drug use will be a key priority. The committee operates under the aegis of my Department.
Finally, the Deputy will be aware that my Department is currently finalising the review of the National Drugs Strategy. The objective of this review is to identify any gaps or deficiencies in the current strategy, develop revised strategies and, if necessary, new structures through which to develop them. The overall aim is to ensure that the policies and strategies which are being pursued at present remain relevant to the situation as it exists on the ground. The new strategy will be launched in the near future.