The Government decided to transfer the functions of the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs relating to the NDS to the Department of Health and Children with effect from 1 May 2011. I have been asked by the Minister to take the lead role in this area.
The Government is committed to addressing problem drug use in a comprehensive way and this is made clear in the programme for Government. Our overall strategic objective is to tackle the harm caused to individuals and society by the misuse of drugs through a concerted focus on the five pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research. The actions set out in the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 facilitate a planned and monitored approach to achieving the overall strategic aims.
The NDS is a cross cutting area of public policy and service delivery and it is based on a co-ordinated approach across many Departments and agencies in conjunction with the community and voluntary sectors. The institutional arrangements to support cross agency working, advise on operational and policy matters, assess progress across the strategy and address any operational difficulties include the drugs advisory group and the oversight forum on drugs. I intend that the work of these bodies will continue, as has been the case up to now. The national advisory committee on drugs also plays a key role and there are no plans to alter its functions.
In excess of €33 million has been allocated to the drugs initiative this year and the majority of expenditure is allocated to local and regional drugs task forces. They have allocated funding to projects and initiatives based on priorities identified in their respective areas. This allocation is only part of a much larger expenditure programme on drugs services by the other bodies involved in tackling drug misuse, not least of which is my Department.
I am familiar with the ongoing issues relating to the drugs problem in communities and the initiatives that have been taken to address them. The difficulties facing our society as a consequence of problem drug use are significant and addressing all the factors involved will not be an easy task but I am determined that progress will be made during the Government's term of office on this important issue.