Drugs and alcohol task forces in budget struggle

By Maurice Garvey

THE last decade has not been kind to local drugs and alcohol task forces (LDATF). Significant cuts led to job losses and a major squeeze on services, but hardly any of these budgets have been restored.

Projects in Clondalkin and Ballyfermot have had to shuffle remaining funds to keep services running.

Grugs Task Force 01 1

Drugs and alcohol task forces in budget struggle

In his 2012 report, social analyst Brian Harvey estimated cuts across the sector to be in and around the 35 per cent mark.

“Nothing has changed, we are still working with what we have,” said Suniva Finlay, Manager of the Ballyfermot Star, which caters for over 400 people, one of the largest community drug treatment schemes in the country.

 “We lost a lot, plus staff and it has never been replaced. Salaries were cut and never restored where they have been in the civil service. From my point of view, we still deliver and grow our services, and have staff that are committed and passionate, even though it is a struggle.”

Earlier this year, Jennifer Clancy, Co-ordinator at Clondalkin Drugs and Alcohol Task Force estimated their budget had been “cut by 31 per cent since 2008.”

“It has stablilised since 2014 but we are still operating on cuts – facing huge issues. Our work is flat out, it is difficult to respond as efficiently as we would like.”

In 2012, the Department of Health carried out a review of the 24 drug task forces in the country, which saw their respective remits expanded.

This means the likes of Clondalkin have seen their catchment area more than double in recent years, from 50,000, to 117,000, due to the addition of Lucan, Palmerstown and Newcastle.

At the recent South Central area committee meeting, councillors called on Minister of State Catherine Byrne to reverse cuts to LDATFs.

Cllr Daithí Doolan, a member of the South Inner City LDATF, said: “The drug crisis deepens every day in our communities. We are dealing with new drugs all the time. We also have to deal with drug-related violence and gangs. Yet core funding has not increased in 11 years. We are battling the drugs crisis with two hands tied behind our back.

“Cuts must be reversed and funding reinstated to 2008 levels. The cross-party support I received clearly shows we are all speaking in one voice.”

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