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Home > Responsible serving of alcohol (RSA) programmes evaluated.

Mongan, Deirdre (2008) Responsible serving of alcohol (RSA) programmes evaluated. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 28, Winter 2008, p. 18.

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The Heath Service Executive (HSE) recently published an evaluation of its responsible serving of alcohol (RSA) programmes – Club Cork and Smart Serve – in Cork city and its environs.1 

 The Club Cork alcohol and drug awareness training programme is a partnership between significant stakeholders involved in alcohol and drug awareness and health promotion in Cork city.  This partnership comprises representatives of the health promotion department of HSE South, the Cork Local Drugs Task Force, the Garda Síochána, emergency departments, the emergency medical response team and a private security company.  Club Cork is funded by the Cork Local Drugs Task Force.  Initially devised to train nightclub staff to deal with alcohol- and drug-related issues on their premises, its remit has extended to training of personnel in pubs and clubs in Cork city.  A total of 286 participants from nightclubs and pubs have been trained since its inception in 2003.  The Smart Serve initiative was developed to promote responsible serving practices in off-licences; to date, approximately 60 personnel have completed this programme. 
A mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods was used to evaluate Club Cork and Smart Serve.  Semi-structured interviews were conducted with representatives of licensed premises who had completed the training programme and with Club Cork organisers and trainers.  In addition, a postal questionnaire was sent to 302 people who had done the RSA course; the response rate was a disappointing 10%, mainly explained by a high turnover in bar staff.  Telephone and face-to-face interviews were conducted with off-licence staff who had participated in the Smart Serve training programme. 
The results indicate strong support for the Club Cork initiative. Its local partnership model was recognised as one of its main strengths.  There was widespread support for RSA training becoming mandatory.  The evaluation highlighted the need to explore the level of co-ordination between the Club Cork programme and other national RSA programmes, for example the Fáilte Ireland programme, to prevent unnecessary duplication. 
The evaluation noted that the future of the Smart Serve RSA programme for off-licences needed to be critically evaluated, given the existence of the National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA) Responsible Trading in the Community programme, which is compulsory for its members.  The lack of participation by the major supermarket chains in RSA programmes was also noted as a major issue given the significant volume of alcohol sales in these premises. 
It is hoped that the recommendations outlined in this report will contribute to the proposed further roll-out of training for management and staff of licensed premises, both locally and nationally.  These initiatives are currently being developed to respond to local needs in Cork county and in Co Kerry with support from the Southern Regional Drugs Task Force. 
1. Houghton F and Fitzmaurice E (2008) Responsible serving of alcohol: an evaluation of the Health Service Executive's Club Cork and Smart Serve initiatives in the Cork region. Cork: HSE South.

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