Clondalkin Drug and Alcohol Task Force National Conference
28th April 2016
In 2015, mindful of the significant changes in patterns of drug use, deteriorating economic and policy environments and the impact of austerity policies on people and services in the area, the Clondalkin Drugs and Alcohol Task Force commissioned a research study to provide an understanding of the current patterns of drug use in the area and explore the relationship between poverty, inequality and drug related harms within the changing policy environment in which Drug and Alcohol Task Forces operate.
The research study ‘Outcomes: Drug Harm, Policy Harms, Poverty and Inequality’ was launched at a national conference on the 28th of April 2016. The overall aim of the conference was to present the findings from this and other studies that examine the links between drug harms, policy harms poverty and inequality and to provide the space for evidence based debates about drugs policy at local and national level, including the development of the new National Drugs Strategy.
The conference was attended by over 120 participants including service user representatives, stakeholders from community, voluntary and statutory agencies, policy and decision makers at local, regional and national level and local politicians.
Fr. Peter McVerry – Peter McVerry Trust
Fr. Peter Mc Verry has been working with vulnerable young people for the last 40 years campaigning tirelessly for their rights. In 1962 he entered the Jesuit Order and was ordained in 1975. From 1974 to 1980, Peter worked in the Inner City in Dublin and there he came into contact with young people who were sleeping on the streets because of their home situation. He opened a hostel for homeless boys; aged 12 – 16, in 1979 and this subsequently became his life-time work. At the end of 1983 he founded the Arrupe Society a charity to tackle homelessness. The charity was subsequently re named as the Peter McVerry Trust. His vision for the PMVT is to support all those living on the margins and to uphold their rights to full inclusion in society.
Professor Kathleen Lynch – UCD School of Social Justice
Kathleen Lynch is the UCD Professor of Equality Studies and an Irish Research Council Advanced Research Scholar, 2014-2017. An academic and an activist, she is guided by the belief that the purpose of scholarship and research is, not just to understand the world, but to change it for the good of all humanity. To that end, she played a leading role in establishing the UCD Equality Studies Centre in 1990 and the UCD School of Social Justice in 2005. She has published, campaigned and lectured widely on equality, equality and education and, most recently on affective (care-related) equality. Her most recent book, co-authored with Bernie Grummell and Dympna Devine, is on the impact of neoliberalism on education, New Managerialism in Education: Commercialisation, Carelessness and Gender (2015 2nd ed.)
Dr. Aileen O'Gorman, Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Drug and Alcohol Studies University of West Scotland
Aileen is a sociologist, equality activist, and lecturer on the postgraduate Contemporary Drug and Alcohol Studies programme at the University of the West of Scotland. Her research work explores the community context of drug use and drug markets; the development of drug-related harms in risk environments; and the social construction of drug policy. She has worked on these issues across a range of settings including the community and voluntary sector, academia, media and government. She was previously a lecturer at the School of Applied Social Science, University College Dublin and coordinator of their Diploma in Community Drugs work; principal research officer at the National Advisory Committee on Drugs; research associate with the Drug Misuse Division of the Health Research Board; and a member of the Management Committee of the Rialto Community Drugs Team from 2005-2015.
Dr. Susanne MacGregor Honorary Professor of Social Policy, Department of Social and Environmental Health Research at the LSHTM
Susanne Mac Gregor is Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Public Health and Policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Professor Emerita at Middlesex University London. She has a broad interest in social policy and research and has written on poverty, inequality drugs and alcohol for many years. As part of a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship, she is writing a book on Drug Policy Wars, part of which involves a study of community responses to drugs. She was Programme Coordinator for the U.K Department of Health Drugs Misuse Research Initiative from 2000 – 2008 and later collaborated on an evaluation of the DH Alcohol Improvement Programme 2010 – 2012. From 2008 – 2010 she evaluated the SMART Recovery Pilot Project for Alcohol Concern and the Department of Health. Susanne is currently a member of an Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs Working Group looking at the needs of Older Problem Drug Users in England.
Workshops in the afternoon focused on the following themes
- Poverty, Inequality, and policy related harms
- Risk Groups for drug related harms (i.e. in treatment population, families of drug users, the Traveller community and Young People)
- The policy environment and partnership
The workshops focused on the following questions
- How can the structural issues of poverty, inequality be addressed in the new National Drugs Strategy?
- How can drug related harms be addressed for at risk groups in the new National Drugs Strategy
- How can we facilitate a community based bottom up policy and decision making process within the new National Drugs strategy
A number of themes from the morning session were explored and discussed at the afternoon workshops including:
- The direct link between drug related harms experienced by those at risk groups to the broader social and economic conditions, the experience of poverty and inequality as well as harmful outcomes of policy.
- The clustering of poverty and drug related harms at neighbourhood level.
- The policy shift towards viewing drug use as an individual behavioural issues rather than a community issue that is directly linked to the structural issues of poverty and inequality
- The undermining of partnership as a model of intersectoral collaboration on the cross cutting issues of drug related harms.
- The extreme levels of bureaucratic monitoring, reporting requirements and the effectiveness and value for money evaluations
- The closing down of space for communities and community based services to input into decision making process
- The imposing of new service level agreements and funding contract’s which prescribe services to deliver short term outcomes addressing individuals social deficits over longer term sustainable change
The following recommendations were made
The New National Drugs Strategy
- Ensure that there is a comprehensive consultation process engaging all the key stakeholders including local communities who are most affected and have a deeper understanding of the responses required
- Develop a cross cutting National Drug Strategy where each department is held accountable in addressing the drugs issue where drug policies are poverty proofed and linked to wider social and economic policies using a public health and human rights approach
- Ensure that the new National Drugs Strategy and the structures that underpin it provide an appropriate framework which will
- Support and facilitate community development / bottom up approach
- Recognise and address the links between poverty, inequality and drug use
- Included actions and resources to address longer term sustainable outcomes for individuals, families and communities
- Be flexible and responsive to local context and needs.
- Take into account the local context and local needs including the needs of women and minority groups
- Link drug polices with policies to build a more equal and caring welfare state
- Include a social inclusion pillar and a strategy for poverty proofing actions
Lobby and Campaigning
- Locally based organisation’s become familiar with and influence decision making systems and structures at local and national level
- Make strategic links with the representatives on Steering committee and sub groups
- Influence the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy
- Make use of the Report by bringing it to the DATF Chairs Network in order to seek support, build allies with others within the sector and feed it up through the system
- Seek real commitment to joined up thinking and partnership working from all the key stakeholders and a re - engagement with the DATF’s structures at local, regional and national level
- Bring together Local and Regional DATF’s and highlight the effectiveness of the DATF model in responding to drug use based on partnership and interagency working
- Build the community voice and create community spaces and re-assert and re-claim the right to participate and influence decision making
- Reclaim and seek resources to create the spaces for the voice of service users, families and communities to influence decision making at local, regional and national level
- Develop pathways to recovery across the continuum of care and provide the resources for the implementation of care planning and case management approaches
- Fr. Peter McVerry - Peter McVerry Trust
- Professor Kathleen Lynch - UCD School of Social Justice
- Dr. Aileen O'Gorman Senior Lecturer Alcohol and Drugs Studies Programme, University of Scotland, West Scotland.
- Pearse Stafford - Service User Representative
- Dr. Susanne MacGregor Honorary Professor of Social Policy, Department of Social and Environmental Health Research at the LSHTM
Please see below speaker presentations:
Cormac O'Keeffe Irish Examiner writes about Outcomes: Drug Harms, Policy Harms, Poverty and Inequality: