Premium rises endanger addiction support services

By Maurice Garvey

ADDICTION support services are at risk due to the financial pressures they are facing via massive hikes in insurance premiums.

One such project, Clondalkin Tus Nua, has seen their premium rise by a whopping 500 per cent over the last four years.

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Despite best efforts to source lower premiums from insurers in Ireland and the UK, the community-based addiction support programme’s insurance premium has risen from €2,900 in 2015, to €14,758 in 2018.

“It’s a really good project but this could make them unviable,” warns Mayor of South Dublin County Mark Ward.

He believes Tus Nua are being hit hard because one of the many services they provide, is a needle and syringe exchange programme.

“It’s pure capitalism. These rich companies know the community depend on these projects,” he said.

Tus Nua was established in 1997 by a group of concerned parents to combat serious drug problems including heroin, in the Southwest Clondalkin area.

According to the group, rising insurance premiums are affecting community-based addiction support projects nationwide.

However, this is also happening at an inopportune time for the Bawnogue project, with their services in high demand.

Rosie McGlone, Project Manager, Clondalkin Tus Nua said: “This project is experiencing an increase in active drug /alcohol service users accessing this service, and we need to provide support to family members with an already reduced budget since 2008 due to the recession.”

Tus Nua provide a range of service besides needle exchange programmes, including one-to-one addiction support, daily drop-in, homeless service, rehabilitation day programme, harm reduction, counselling and family support.

McGlone says premium increases have put “enormous financial pressure on the project budget” and could lead to a loss of services.

“While we have made every attempt to cut programme costs as much as possible, a further increase will inevitably result in some aspects of the service being withdrawn. This in turn may have a detrimental impact on those most vulnerable and most marginalised who access our services.”

She said efforts to secure a better premium rate from insurers in Ireland and the UK proved futile. Mayor Ward said funding via HSE has “not increased in line with increase of insurance” and “every penny counts in these groups”.

Fearing for the future viability of the service, last week Ward asked the Clondalkin area committee to write to the Minister for Finance and enquire what safeguards he is putting in place to “protect vital community-based projects from crippling rising insurance costs”.

Established in 1997 by local parents as Bawnogue Youth and Family Support Group, the project formally opened in 1999 through funding from the HSE, Department of Social Protection and Clondalkin Drug and Alcohol Task Force.

They developed a unique support centre providing holistic and therapeutic services, and in 2011 moved to a purpose built facility on New Nangor Road.

In 2013, they changed the name to Clondalkin Tus Nua (New Beginning).

A spokesperson for the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman said they don’t comment on individual cases.

However, the FSPO said the best course of action in general, is to contact a provider and tell them you are making a complaint.

Under the consumer protection code, providers have 40 days to respond to the complainant.

The FSPO have a mediation service which considers all parties involved, but said that 75 per cent of cases lead to a successful resolution. It can tend to be a process which takes time.

Alternatively, groups can contact the FSPO directly and fill out a complaint form – further details are available at www.fspo.ie.

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