Tackling addiction requires cross-departmental approach

Date published: 27 January 2022

Health Minister Robin Swann has commented on the publication of the Public Accounts Committee report on Addiction Services in Northern Ireland.

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The report highlights the increase in drugs and alcohol related deaths in the last ten years and says a joined-up approach to tackling substance use is essential if the new strategy is to make an impact.

The Minister said: “I welcome publication of the report on Addiction services today.  Addiction is a societal issue and if as a society we are to truly address addiction, we must also tackle the fundamental problems that can lead a person on that path.

“We are continually reminded of the suffering and tragedy that alcohol and other drugs cause to individuals, families, and communities across Northern Ireland. That is why my Department pushed forward with launching the new Substance Use Strategy for Northern Ireland.  This strategy was co-produced with service users and their families, key stakeholders and other government departments and is aimed at preventing and reducing the harm related to substance use.” 

The Minister acknowledged there are many challenges facing government in relation to tackling addiction.  He said: “The Public Accounts Committee in its report has highlighted this is not just an issue that can be tackled by Health alone. These are multi-faceted problems that exist across the whole of our society – poverty and deprivation; homelessness; employment and economic development; mental health and trauma; paramilitarism, community relations and justice; educational attainment, inequalities; and the legacy of the past. Tackling these societal issues will require the whole Executive to operate collectively.”

Concluding, the Minister thanked the Public Accounts Committee for its positive comments on the new substance use strategy and its support for funding to implement it. 

In its report the PAC states: “The Committee was encouraged by the direction of the new strategy, in particular its emphasis on a collaborative, cross-sectoral approach to tackling the harms caused by substance use. However, commitment on paper must be backed up by actions and funding to implement the strategy. It is clear that on their own, interventions made by the Department of Health (the Department) will not be enough to deal with the large and growing harms, and the Committee calls for joined-up action, led by the centre of government, with a clear objective of reducing drug and alcohol related deaths.”

The Department of Health and key stakeholders will now consider the report in detail and take forward action to address the issues as appropriate.



Notes to editors: 

  1. The Public Accounts Committee Report is available on the NI Assembly website. The report follows their consideration of the Northern Ireland Audit Office’s report into Addiction Services in Northern Ireland published in June 2020.
  2. Our new 10 year substance use strategy, Preventing Harm, Empowering Recovery, was launched by Minister Swann on 7 September 2021. The new strategy can be viewed on the DoH website at the following link: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/substance-use-strategy-2021-31.
  3. This strategy replaces the previous substance misuse strategy – the New Strategic Direction for Alcohol & Drugs Phase 2 (NSD Phase 2) – endorsed by the former NI Executive and launched in 2012. ‘New Decade, New Approach’ contained a commitment for the Executive to publish a successor strategy to NSD Phase 2.
  4. A review of the previous Alcohol and Drugs Strategy was completed in 2019 and work began to develop the new strategy in 2020 and continued on despite the COVID pandemic. Since then the new strategy has been subject to a full public consultation and has been co-produced with the help of a wide range of stakeholders –government departments and agencies, health professionals, community and voluntary sector representatives; as well as service users and their families.
  5. For media enquiries please contact DoH Press Office by e-mail  pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk
  6. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt
  7. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The Duty Press Officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.


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