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27 Oct 23 - Press release from IASW regarding Recommendations from Citizens Assembly on Drugs Use - Some Progress, Some Challenges, Much to Do

The Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) commends the work undertaken and completed by the Citizens Assembly on Drugs Use, welcomes the Assembly’s conclusions and recommendations, and looks forward to working with all those concerned to implement the positive changes envisioned and set out for Government by the Citizens Assembly. Social workers take the view that drugs should be viewed within a social and environmental – as well as health based – context and as such, social work can offer key contributions and leadership on this issue. On the recent concluding of the work of the Citizens Assembly on Drugs and its thirty-six recommendations, Vivian Geiran, Chair of the IASW noted: 

While it is positive to see the recommendations for a health-led response to drugs use, we view this as a somewhat missed opportunity for an even more progressive move to a social-led response to drugs. Social workers know, from extensive, direct frontline work with individuals and communities, that investment in holistic approaches to the harms caused by drugs, are most effective. Policies based on people and community-led approaches, which take account of social networks, social solidarity and social wellbeing would have a much greater chance of positive outcomes, than a health-led approach alone. 

Social Workers strongly recommend the Oireachtas to consider the following when deliberating on the recommendations from the Citizen’s Assembly on Drugs Use:

  1.  Poverty is a key factor in much drug use and as such, responses to drug use should include addressing poverty as a key policy approach.
  2. Criminalisation of individual drug users is harmful and contributes to stigmatisation of people. Instead, social workers suggest a health and social-led approach to drugs, as more conducive to positive outcomes for people and communities.
  3. Develop a progressive public health response to drug use with multi-disciplinary teams, to include social work as core members, working from a health and social approach.
  4. Take a restorative justice approach to drug policy.
  5. Invest in holistic drugs policy based on person and community-led approaches, which take account of social networks, social solidarity, and social wellbeing.

As experts in the field of psychosocial approaches to health and wellbeing, social workers are well placed to provide leadership, training, education, knowledge, and skills towards the realisation of a new and more effective vision and reality on drugs policy in Ireland. Working in meaningful partnership with individuals, communities and others, social work will continue to help tangibly support co-produced change, from the ground up, in a rights-based way.

IASW Spokesperson: Vivian Geiran via the office on 086 0241055

Click on the link provided to view the IASW submission to the Citizens Assembly on Drug Use: