Home > An evaluation of the WRENS project in Killinarden.

Keane, Martin (2008) An evaluation of the WRENS project in Killinarden. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 27, Autumn 2008, p. 14.

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The Killinarden Drugs Primary Prevention Group (KDPPG) established the WRENS1 project in 2002, initially to assist women who experienced marginalisation from their communities as a result of the anti-social behaviour of a family member. Based on the principles of community development, the project has continued to work with parents and families and has developed specific services for young people within the school system and for clients of the Probation Service. The work of WRENS was recently evaluated by Duggan2 using documentary analysis and in-depth interviews with project staff, parents, school staff and probation and welfare personnel.

 According to parents and school staff, the programme for young people is contributing to a reduction in disruptive behaviour and improvements in school retention rates. Disruptive behaviour and early school leaving are indicators of drug use and, in this context, the programme is seen to benefit young people at risk of engaging in drug use. In particular, the intensive one-to-one work with young people was identified as an effective approach.
Participants in the family programme reported having gained a better understanding of the issues adversely affecting them, improved problem management techniques in the family, increased participation in the community and in some cases the attainment of new skills applicable to a range of settings. However, the evaluation noted that some parents were potentially becoming dependent on the support from the programme and that, in the long run, measures ought to be taken to empower these parents to progress to independent management of the issues affecting them.
Among the small number of participants who were supervised by the Probation Service, a number of notable changes in behaviour and lifestyle were reported. For example, participants reported a greater awareness of the consequences of their offending behaviour and of ways of changing such behaviour. They also reported greater structure in their lives, increased awareness of alcohol and drug addictions and improved relations with the Probation Service.
Overall, the evaluation reported that KDPPG, through the WRENS project, was doing excellent work in delivering community development interventions to individuals and families with specific needs. These interventions benefited the individuals, the families and their communities, and added value to the work of the statutory sector. However, it was noted that the KDPPG could improve its strategic planning and begin systematic data collection so as to monitor and evaluate its own service and to share its experience with other agencies responding to drug use.
A lack of strategic planning and systematic data collection is common among drug prevention interventions based on community development principles. This is often influenced by the fluid and organic nature of community development, where the aim is to empower individuals and families through face-to-face interventions in the community so that they can resolve their own problems and contribute to greater community cohesion, rather than to provide evidence of effectiveness.  
1. WRENS stands for Women Reviewing Equality Networking Standards.
2. Duggan C (2007) An evaluation of the WRENS project implemented by KDPPG. Dublin: Killinarden Drug Primary Prevention Group.

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