Home > Let’s get specific – a prevention forum.

Dillon, Lucy (2018) Let’s get specific – a prevention forum. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 67, Autumn 2018, p. 22.

PDF (Drugnet 67)

In November 2017, the Prevention and Education Subcommittee of Dublin’s North Inner City Drug and Alcohol Task Force (NICDATF) held a forum on substance misuse prevention and education. It was opened by Minister of State Catherine Byrne TD and attended by youth and community workers and teachers, alongside a small number of young people. The forum was held in the context of the 2017 national drugs and alcohol strategy, Reducing harm, supporting recovery.1 The new strategy had moved away from having prevention as one of a set of strategic pillars to prevention actions falling under a broader goal that sets out to promote and protect health and wellbeing.


The forum set out to discuss prevention in the new strategy and the work of and issues faced by those working in prevention and education. On 15 June 2018, NICDATF launched a report Let’s get specific, which detailed the

discussions at the forum.2 The report is divided into four sections:

  • The first describes participants’ responses to the new strategy and their views on the broad context in which they were working.
  • The second reflects the discussion on substance misuse prevention and education in schools, with a strong focus on the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme.
  • The third describes the work of youth and community services providing prevention education and therapeutic support and treatment to young people.
  • The final section makes a set of recommendations. 


The main body of the report presents participants’ perceptions on each of the areas covered, including what they saw to be as the main challenges and obstacles to delivering effective prevention and education programmes. In the concluding section, the Prevention and Education Subcommittee of NICDATF makes 10 recommendations, which broadly reflect the views and experiences of forum participants. These are:


1    Work with the Department of Education to enhance the status of and support to the teaching of SPHE. This should include:

      –    Proper staffing of its teaching. SPHE should not be treated as an ‘add on’ subject.

      –    Provision of adequate training and support to SPHE teachers.

      –    Leadership of school principals in ensuring proper timetabling of the subject; connecting the teaching of the subject with external support groups in the community; and sharing the lessons with, and involving, parents in training.


2    Address the funding reductions in recent years to community and youth projects in the area of drug misuse prevention and education. This should focus on enabling groups to upscale training outreach and peer-to-peer education work in community and school settings.


3    Support the development of more youth-friendly education materials that provide factually accurate information, including an emphasis on areas viewed as under-represented (e.g. cannabis and alcohol misuse; the link between drug misuse and sexual health; and the link between social media and mental health).


4    Ensure young people are heard, for example, through the establishment of a continuous feedback from young people on the effectiveness, or otherwise, of substance misuse strategies.


5    Build a stronger evidence base to show the impact of substance misuse education. Draw on evidence from international best practice. This should not put further pressure on community organisations or teachers but could be done through forming partnerships with interested educators and universities.


6    Start drug misuse education earlier through the pilot of primary-level programmes, learning from ongoing education work on wellbeing in the primary education and community sectors.


7    Promote stronger advocacy from Drug and Alcohol Task Forces on:

      –    Areas of Government policy and legislation relating to substance misuse, for example, learning lessons from the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015

      –    The central question of social and economic inequality and its connection with substance misuse.


8    Provide support for an interagency collaborative approach to education, awareness, and intervention on substance misuse.


9    Continue to support the essential roles of the key stakeholders, including statutory agencies, the Department of Education, community and youth projects, schools, parents and carers.


10  Ensure that any actions relating to Dublin’s north inner city respond appropriately to the particularly difficult and tense atmosphere there at this time.


1  Department of Health (2017) Reducing harm, supporting recovery: a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017–2025. Dublin: Department of Health. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/27603/

2  North Inner City Drug and Alcohol Task Force (2017) Report of ‘Let’s get specific’ prevention and education forum. Dublin: North Inner City Drug and Alcohol Task Force. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/29220/

Repository Staff Only: item control page