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Probation Service. (2019) Probation Service annual report 2018. Dublin: Probation Service.

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P.15. Responding to Complex Challenges Presented by Service Users

Many offenders under the supervision of the Probation Service have complex needs such as alcohol or drug problems, mental health issues, literacy issues and social skills deficits. These offenders require a broad range of support and assistance in the community if they are to make better choices for themselves and their communities. These issues are taken into account in how we organise and deliver services. 

The correlation between offending behaviour and substance misuse is well established. The misuse of alcohol and illegal substances is harmful to the individual, can lead to a significant increase in criminal activity and can cause substantial victimisation in the community. Working with offenders who experience substance misuse, Probation Officers encourage problem substance misusers to engage with and avail of treatment services, provide information, advice and referral interventions. Probation Officers also engage in brief interventions, to assist those with substance misuse problems to address their problems as part of the case management process.


As part of Probation Service commitments under the National Drug Strategy Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery 2017 – 2025 and the Probation Service Substance Misuse Strategy 2017-2018, in 2018, the Service continued up-skill and support staff in their work with offenders who experience substance misuse. This included:

  • Continued rollout of the SAOR Model (Screening and Brief Intervention for Alcohol and Substance Use), with approximately 160 staff trained to date.
  • Briefing sessions, delivered in collaboration with An Garda Síochána and health care professionals, with a focus on supply channels, new psychoactive substances and issues relating to dual diagnosis.
  • Revision of Principles of Working with Substance Misuse staff guidance document, a key resource in informing and supporting probation practice.
  • Collaboration with the Irish Prison Service in developing improved care pathways and referral processes for prisoners presenting with substance misuse issues, including Probation Service participation on Clinical Addiction Teams in prisons. 

P.27 Improve the provision of drug & alcohol services in prison and the community

We will work together to increase equity of access, choice and person-centred treatment and intervention options. Co-ordination of services will enhance clear treatment pathways. The experience of prison will be seen as an opportunity to address addictions with a focus on outcomes:

  • The experience of and response to novel psychoactive substances (NPS) is being monitored and clinical advice remains consistent with international best practice.
  • As part of the joint response to “Review of Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services for Adult Offenders in Prison and in the Community 2016” the Probation Service/Irish Prison Service are working in tandem with developments on national basis with the HSE.
  • Probation Service has implemented the SAOR Model supporting evidence-based practice for clients with substance misuse issues. 

P.61 Offence breakdown of all referrals and orders made 2018 - Drug Offences %

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