Travellers’ poor literacy skills raises drug concerns

POOR literacy skills are blocking Travellers’ access to drug treatment services, a new study found yesterday.

The research, the first of its kind, was carried out by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD).

The snapshot study of Travellers found the ethnic group face a number of risks with drug use. Launching the report, committee chairman Des Corrigan explained: “Travellers are facing barriers in terms of accessing services due to a number of factors including a lack of awareness of the services available, what these services do and the stigma or embarrassment felt about attending a drugs service for treatment and support.”

Figures show up to 80% of Ireland’s 30,000 Travellers are unable to read. Simple tasks such as filling in forms, doctor appointments or medical card applications therefore become an obstacle, noted the study.

“This issue has a serious impact on how Travellers receive, process and act on information, and requires service providers to be innovative and flexible in their communication with Travellers,” the study said.

Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug followed by cocaine and ecstasy.

Drugs Minister Noel Ahern said it was important Travellers themselves had an input into any health concerns on their ethnic group.

“Involving members of the Travelling Community in planning appropriate responses to the needs of their community, is essential,” he said.

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