Community development

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Family Support Agency, services against drugs

Asked about her intentions for the Family Support Agency, the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald, told Padraig Mac Lochlainn (SF, Donegal NE) that the agency would come under the remit of the new Department of Children and Youth Affairs and would move there in the next few weeks (Dail Eireann, Debates, 14th April 2011, 288-9, 289-290).    Meantime, its budget of €31.7m, including €15.9m for the Family Resource Centres, should enable the continuation of their very valuable services.  It had also been decided that the Family Mediation Service would transfer to the Department of Justice, Equality and Defence.

As for the National Drugs Strategy, the minister assured Jonathan O’Brien (SF, Cork NC) that the government would continue to build on the strategy on drugs: responsibility would transfer on 1st May to the Minister for Health & Children (> also Dail Eireann, Debates, 13th April 2011, 188).   In exchanges on the drugs strategy, Eamon O Cuiv (FF, Galway W) contested the transfer of the drugs strategy to the Department of Health and Children, ‘which seemed to infer that the drugs problem in primarily a medical problem’ (Dail Eireann, Debates, 14th April 2011, 265).  It was a medical problem too, but much of it related to communities and that was why it had been placed in the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs.  He asked for her commitment that the wide range of community programmes be continued – or would the department take the view that it was an individual health problem rather than a societal and community one?  Dessie Ellis (SF, Dublin NW) spoke of the cuts to the drugs task force in the order of 8% to 10% each year for the past three years, which was having a major impact on communities.  He urged the minister to ensure that there were no more cutbacks: ‘working class areas cannot take any more cutbacks because it is having a knock-on effect in terms of crime and other issues’.  The Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald said that she accepted the points made by both deputies and it was not the intention to undermine the work being done at local level.  The strategy will not take a medical model approach only, for that would be a retrograde step.  There would be a more comprehensive approach building on the work already done and added: ‘Members agree that it is time for a review.  Some of the programmes have been in place for some time and we need to review the structures.  In line with the reform agenda, it is important that we review how programmes are developed, seek efficiencies and value for money’.

> Funding for drugs posts in Canal communities: Dail Eireann, Debates, 5th April 2011, 367.

The new child protection agency

The Minister for Health & Children, Dr James Reilly, told Martin Ferris (SF, Kerry N) that preliminary work was under way to set up a new agency responsible for the delivery of child protection services (Dail Eireann, Debates, 12th April 2011, 798).