Fight against drugs hit hard by cutbacks

Ireland experiences one of highest level of spending cuts in EU

Fight against drugs hit hard by cutbacks

Ireland has experienced one of the highest levels of spending cutbacks on health and policing in the European Union, affecting its ability to tackle the drugs problem, according to the EU drugs agency.

And separate figures from the Department of Health show a 14% drop in overall drug-related expenditure across all departments, with the greatest cuts in social protection, children and youth affairs and education.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction said the impact of austerity on drug policy was “more severe” in countries hardest hit by the economic recession.

Its figures show:

- Ireland had the fifth greatest cut in health spending of 27 EU states, with a cumulative reduction of almost 7% between 2009 and 2011 — compared to an EU average of +4%.

- Ireland had the seventh highest cut in public order and safety spending, with a cumulative reduction of 8.2%, compared to an EU average of +1.4%.

- In terms of ranking for health cuts, Ireland lies behind Greece (-31%), Latvia (-21%), Slovakia (-16%) and Estonia (-8%).

- In relation to policing cuts, Ireland is in a cluster of countries experiencing a 8%-9% cut, including Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Hungary. Again the countries suffering the greatest cuts are Latvia (-33%), Estonia (-27%) and Greece (-10%).

The EMCDDA report said few countries, with the exception of Ireland, broke down their budgets to reveal the effects on drug-related expenditure.

“In Ireland, funds labelled to finance drug-related policies for health have registered marked falls since 2008 (by 12% in 2009, 1% in 2010 and 13% in 2011, in real terms),” the report said. “In 2012, there were expectations that funding for some drug-related initiatives would be reduced further.”

It said the available estimates of drug-related public expenditure across the EU did not reveal the full impact of the economic recession on the public financing of drug policy in Europe.

“However, one conclusion can safely be drawn,” it said. “Reductions in overall funding for the provision of public services such as public order and safety, health and social protection are likely to impact negatively on the capacity to deliver drug services and drug law enforcement, since these are areas that have synergies with drug-related interventions.”

Separate data from the Department of Health shows total drugs funding dropped from €277m in 2009 to €237m in 2013 (a cut of 14%). This reflects a 14% cut in the biggest funding area, the HSE, which fell from €105m to €90.4m.

But it hides larger cuts in the other departments:

Health: down 22%, from €39.4m to €30.5m.

Children and Youth Affairs: down 29%, from €28.5m to €20.3m.

Social Protection: down 29%, from €18.8m to €13.4m.

Education: down 78%, from €3.6m to €0.8m.

Environment: down 100%, from €0.5m to zero.

Elsewhere, the figures show that Department of Justice funding increased from €14.8m to €18.5m, while Garda funding fell slightly, from €45m to €44m.

Revenue’s Customs Service has seen its drug-related funding drop by 8%, from €15.9m to €14.6m.

The Irish Prison Service’s budget fell by 10%, from €5m to €4m.

The figures show the total funding for 2014 has actually increase slightly, €237m to €240m.

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