I wish to raise with the Minister of State the level of funding for the local and regional drug and alcohol task forces. I thank the Minister of State for the time she took last week to meet and update me on the progress of the implementation of the current drug and alcohol strategy. During that meeting we discussed a number of issues. One issue I highlighted was my concern at the level of funding the local and regional drug and alcohol task forces receive. That funding relates to regional and local drug and alcohol task forces. I believe that the Minister of State is sympathetic and that she understands the problem. The problem is that we have to convince the Minister of State's colleagues and members of Government that this issue needs to be addressed.
It is worth putting onto the record of the House that the proposed funding for 2019 is exactly the same level of funding that was made available in 2018. The 2018 finding was the same as the 2017 budget, as it was for 2016, 2015 and 2014. For all of those years the budget allocation has been the same. In 2014, there was a reduction on the previous year of 2013. I understand and acknowledge that we have had a recession but we have come to a point in recovery. Drug and alcohol task forces are primarily funded by the HSE and the Department of Health. Funding going into the parent Department is increasing significantly year on year, but these projects are being left behind. The projects are struggling to survive and maintain the existing level of service, to pay the salaries of those people employed, and to meet new and emerging challenges. They are under huge pressure.
I have asked these questions in the past and I am aware that in her reply the Minister of State will say that additional one-off funding has been made available to improve the organisational effectiveness of the task forces, and that towards the end of the year there was additional funding. I put it to the Minister of State that if this additional one-off funding had been built into the base as core funding, we would have seen growth year on year. I have very real concerns about the effectiveness of one-off funding. It is a challenge for task forces to engage and introduce new programmes to spend that money. In real terms, when the funding runs out, the problem remains to be dealt with. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that the work done by the people involved in drug and alcohol task forces and the programmes that they support in our communities is a continual demand. It is regrettable but it is the reality. We will be facing addiction treatment and minimising its impact for a long time to come. If these programmes and projects are to be supported, they need to be supported financially.
I can see no reason at all, when the health budget has been increasing year on year, why the base core funding going to task forces has remained the same since 2014. I find this incredible. Apart from the physical strain it puts on the providers of these programme projects, the lack of support also undervalues them. People feel that they are being ignored, the work they do is not being recognised, and they do not get the same recognition as other groups. I do not know of any other group or programme, be it for capitation fees in schools or the recipients of grants given out by the Minister, Deputy Ring, to RAPID areas, that has been left static for that period of time.
I do not blame the Minister of State for this whatsoever. I genuinely believe that she realises the work being done by the task forces, but between us, and I include the other Members of the House in that, we need to convince the Minister for Health and the Minister for Finance that the funding made available in budget 2019 is inadequate. Rather than coming at the end of the year with a Supplementary Estimate, that budget needs to be amended at the start of the year so the money can be spent wisely in a managed and effective way to achieve the programmes set out.