Performance audit report on tackling problem drug use

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Performance audit report on tackling problem drug useThe Auditor General has recently conducted a study addressing the manner by which problem drug use is tackled in Malta on a national level. For the purpose of this performance audit, the National Audit Office (NAO) reviewed the residential rehabilitation services available as well as the supporting functions in place.

The reviewed rehabilitation homes included those managed by Caritas, OASI Foundation, and Sedqa; whereas the supporting roles of the Department for Social Welfare Standards, the National Commission for Drugs, Alcohol and Other Dependencies, the National Coordinating Unit for Drugs and Alcohol, the National Focal Point, as well as the Employment and Training Corporation (ETC), were also assessed.

NAO concluded that, although standards of services were generally perceived as positive by the clients, arrangements specifically targeted at addressing reintegration into society from an employment perspective were generally limited across service providers. Such arrangements include training offered to clients with regard to enhancing opportunities when they enter the job market.

Employment of former problem drug users emerged as a clear concern during the course of the performance audit. An analysis of data on the employment history of persons who identified themselves as former problem drug users and, therefore, formed part of the Special Cases Unit at the ETC revealed a number of concerns.

More specifically, over half of the clients registered with this Unit within ETC between 2007 and February 2012 had never been in employment during this period. Bridging the Gap, a scheme aimed at helping disadvantaged groups find employment, registered a success rate of 22 per cent, representing a marginal improvement over the wider population’s success rate of 16 per cent.

NAO is also concerned with the number of training courses attended by persons registered as Former Substance Abusers, which progressively and drastically declined as their length of registration with this Unit increased.

The issue of poor training attendance is accentuated in the case of the 106 persons who never attended any course while being simultaneously unemployed during their time registered as Former Substance Abusers.

While 61 of the 106 persons were enlisted for training yet failed to attend, the remaining 45 ETC clients were never provided with a training opportunity, which is of concern and negatively impacted upon ETC performance.

A clearly apparent lacuna in terms of service delivery related to the provision of services targeted at minors who have a problem of drug abuse. The absence of appropriately corresponding services tailored for this age group was highlighted by the various stakeholders involved in this audit, who unanimously put forward and supported the need for specialised services addressing this subgroup of problem drug users.

In light of the exponentially increasing drug-related offences (from 70 in 1999, to over 1,200 in 2012), NAO supports the work of the National Commission for the Abuse of Drugs and Other Dependencies with respect to the divisionary system represented by the Arrest Referral Scheme. Distinguishing between first-time and repeat offenders is beneficial, mostly for the former, due to the more efficient resolution of cases.

The Report proposes a number of recommendations aimed at improving the infrastructure of the subject under study.

The report in full is available for download here.

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