Home > Inter-agency protocols - a model of good practice for agencies working with current and former drug users in Blanchardstown.

Keane, Martin (2004) Inter-agency protocols - a model of good practice for agencies working with current and former drug users in Blanchardstown. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 12, December 2004, pp. 18-19.

PDF (Drugnet Ireland, issue 12) - Published Version

On 1 October 1 2004, the Blanchardstown EQUAL Initiative was launched at Croke Park as a model of good practice.1  The agencies involved include the Rehabilitation/Integration Service (RIS) of the Northern Area Health Board (NAHB), Blanchardstown Local Employment Service, the BOND project, Coolmine Therapeutic Community, Hartstown/Huntstown Community Drug Team, Mountview/Blakestown Community Drug Team, Mulhuddart/Corduff Community Drug Team and the Tolka River Rehabilitation Project. 1

 The Initiative was developed to establish a co-ordinated approach to provide quality supports and services to former and current drug users in the Blanchardstown area. The agencies involved expressed the view that clients can 'fall through the gaps' and are often not in a position to assess appropriate services when required. The key objective was to bring together statutory and voluntary agencies working with current and former drug users in order to establish clear inter-agency protocols and good working relationships. The primary aim is to enhance opportunities for the target group to progress towards employment opportunities.

 Developments to date include a protocol on lead agency working, which provides a definition of the term and establishes the responsibilities of the lead agency. According to the protocol, a lead agency assumes the most significant role in providing and co-ordinating services to a client, including the provision of a key worker. Responsibilities include carrying out a needs assessment, holding and managing the overall care plan and tracking and following up on a client to prevent a ‘fall through the cracks'. In addition, a protocol on confidentiality has been developed and adopted by all eight participating agencies, covering areas such as the limits of confidentiality, sharing client information, working with under-18s and accommodating clients’ access to files containing information on them.

The development of the protocols followed extensive inter-agency work from mid-2003 to February 2004 assisted by an independent facilitator.2 From February to April 2004 the protocols were piloted among the agencies. Preliminary evaluation results in Table 1 below show that co-operation between agencies is improving, particularly on the challenging issues of three-way meetings and lead agency referrals. A three-way meeting is one between the lead agency, the agency the client has agreed to be referred to and the client.


Table 1   Indicators of inter-agency co-operation between organisations involved in protocols, 2004  





No. of inter-agency referrals




No. of three-way meetings




No. of lead agency referrals








Total No. of inter-agency activities




 Source: Blanchardstown EQUAL Initiative (2004) Making inter-agency protocols work, Appendix 2 (McDonnell).


The evaluation noted that three-way meetings were consistently reported as being positive both for introducing clients to new agencies and for resolving issues arising for clients between agencies. The lead agency approach is seen by most agencies as having clarified the roles of other services and allowed the interventions to be client-focused. Following the pilot phase, all eight agencies agreed to mainstream the use of the protocols in their work programmes; however, lead agencies recognise that these new approaches will take time to develop, to embed and to implement.

 As part of the evaluation of the pilot phase, a facilitated focus group session was held with eight clients in early September 2004. All the clients had been through the inter-agency initiative and found it to be an improved way of working. According to the evaluator, they questioned why it was not used everywhere when it had so many advantages for service users.

 While this initiative is quite new, its innovative approach to the process of working with current and former drug users has been acknowledged. The National Drugs Strategy 2001–2008 is premised on the theme of an inter-agency approach across the 100 actions; however, the strategy does not outline any specific recommendations or guidelines on how such an approach could be developed. The Blanchardstown EQUAL Inter-agency Initiative is an innovative exercise in attempting to work out the details of inter-agency relationships on the ground. It is a model with a great deal of learning outcomes to offer policy makers and service providers interested in establishing good inter-agency protocols. Its future development merits close attention.

1. Blanchardstown EQUAL Initiative (2004) Making inter-agency protocols work: The development of common protocols by agencies working with current or former drug users: a model of good practice. Dublin: Blanchardstown EQUAL Initiative.

2. Rita Burtenshaw of Burtenshaw Kenny Associates 

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Issue Title
Issue 12, December 2004
December 2004
Page Range
pp. 18-19
Health Research Board
Issue 12, December 2004
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

Repository Staff Only: item control page