January 2018 courses

Two new courses are scheduled to commence in January: see flyers for further information

Community development course

Alcohol and drug awareness course

Valuing Family Support

A new report Valuing Family Support: A Social Return on Investment Analysis on Understanding the Value of Family Support for Families, undertaken by Quality Matters in conjunction with Family Support Network draws attention to the many, health and relationship benefits to families of support networks.  The report was launched Dec 6th at an event to celebrate 10 years of the Family Support Network. An infographic and press release are available at links below:


Press release

Youth-at-risk Network: 3rd Workshop


See Video of the Workshop

The third workshop in Youth At-Risk Network series  will be held on Thursday, November 23rd, 10.00-1.00 in the Harbour View Business Centre, Dun Laoghaire. The theme of this workshop is: The Cannabis Question: What are the issues and dilemmas posed for workers in the field arising from the use of cannabis by Youth At-Risk. To book a place at this workshop contact Marie: 01-7060125.

In conjunction with this workshop the Task Force has produced a Briefing on Young People and Cannabis. Two versions of this briefing - text and slide show - are available as pdfs

Text (long) version

Slide show version

UK Supreme Court rules in favour of minimum price legislation

whiskey 3

The UK Supreme Court has ruled that Scotland can set a minimum price for alcohol. Legislation was approved by the Scottish Parliament five years ago but has been tied up in court challenges from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA). In a unanimous judgment, seven UK Supreme Court judges said the legislation did not breach European Union law and ruled the measure was a "proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim". Ministers said a 50p-per-unit minimum would help tackle Scotland's "unhealthy relationship with drink" by raising the price of cheap, high-strength alcohol. More


Injection facility opening delayed

council 3

The development of the State’s first supervised injecting centre – in which users would be permitted to inject drugs they had obtained elsewhere - has reached a significant stumbling block, following a ruling by Dublin City Council ruling that the facility cannot go ahead without planning permission. Last August the HSE issued a tender seeking a provider to run the facility and both the Ana Liffey Drug Project and Merchants Quay Ireland applied. Although legislation to allow the facility passed by the Dáil earlier this year, the City Council has ruled that it is not exempted from the requirement of planning permission. It is believed the ruling could delay the opening for up to two years. More

New EMCDDA guide on responss to drug problems

emcdda report

EMCDDA – the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction has produced a very good guide on health and social responses to drug problems. The guide comes with a range of associated online materials and is an excellent reference point for planning or delivering health and social responses to drug problems in Europe, and individual States. It highlights that the most appropriate responses depend on (1) the specific drug problems, (2) the contexts in which they occur and (3) the types of intervention that are possible and socially acceptable. By providing key information on some of the most important drug issues for Europe and the responses available, this guide aims to assist those involved in tackling these challenges to develop new programmes and improve existing ones, and in drawing from evidence in their efforts to do so. Download the guide here

Think before you buy

blanch 3

Think Before You Buy is a campaign commissioned by Safer Blanchardstown based on a report and study from Philip Jennings highlighting the dangers of recreational drug use and the long term effects on communites, particularly on issues surrounding drug-debt intimidation in west Dublin and the effects it is having on communities there. View video

Media awards

blue 3 Let’s Talk about Drugs National Youth Media Awards Competition 2018 is an annual drug education competition that aims to help young people explore and understand various issues relating to drug and alcohol use in Irish society. To enter, young people are asked to research topics or share their personal experiences and create either: a short video, an audio podcast, a news article; or a poster. The age categories for entering are: 12-14; 15-17; 18-21; 22-25. The themes for the 2018 competition will be divided into categories based on age.

The themes for the 12-14 and 15-17 age categories include:

·       Talk about -underage drinking and the risks

·       Talk about cannabis and the risks 

yellow 3

 The themes for the 18-21 and 22-25 age categories include:

·        Talk about - club drugs - what are the risks?

·        Talk about – performance and image enhancing drugs – what are the risks?

By getting involved, young people can explore the issue of drugs and alcohol from a constructionist learning experience and have a more meaningful impact on their own understanding of the issues. Winners from the four age categories will receive a €250 One4All gift card and the overall winner will receive a prize of €1,000 One4All gift cards. Winners will also have their work published on

 You will find full competition details, information, recommended research sites and examples of previous winners at . If you have any questions contact Jason at 01-9603010

Report on Youth At-Risk Cafe Conversation, September 26th, 2017

The second Café Conversation for personnel working on the frontline with young people at-risk was held Tuesday, 26th September last in the Harbour View Business Centre, Dun Laoghaire. The event was co-sponsored by Dun Loghaire Rathdown Drug and Alcohol Task Force, Southside Partnership and Dublin & Dun Laoghaire Education Training Board. The event was facilitated by CAN (Community Action Network).

cafe 4 - 1

   The Café Conversation was the second in a series; the first was held in May last and adopted a World Café approach through which several themes emerged from what participants were most interested in talking about. At last Tuesday’s conversation, a more structured approach was used, although an open conversation method was deployed. The overall theme was: Exploring the challenge of engaging excluded or disaffected youth when they feel disconnected from the projects and services that wish to help them improve their lives.

Following an introduction to the event and format, proceedings opened with small group, facilitated conversation  – at café tables – exploring the key concerns that arise for practitioners in “Youth Engagement”. In the course of the conversation each group agreed three concerns / questions that were posted around the venue’s walls and everybody was encouraged to take a walk around and view these.

   The second part of the morning consisted a facilitated conversation, involving two resource people who were invited to address the concerns raised and to contribute their insights, based on their considerable years of experience in working with youth at-riskOur two resource people were Donacadh Hurley and Alan Hendrick. Donacadh, has worked in Ballymun for over twenty years, where he was involved in setting up and leading outreach projects. Alan set up and leads Smyly’s After Care service (for young people leaving the care of the State) in Dun Laoghaire and has experience of working in residential and neighbourhood youthwork.

  Donnacadh used the metaphor of a bridge in highlighting the distance that often exists between workers and young people at-risk, and that the bridge was a two-way system: the worker can’t simply wait around for the young people to cross and come into their centres, or projects or services, but that fundamentally they need to cross that bridge and enter the world of the young person, to meet them where they are at, and to develop long-term relationships. He advocated the importance of peers in developing these contacts, including young adults who previously found themselves in difficult situations, such as being homeless, drug using and in prison, and who often have a lot to offer young people on the margins, particularly in terms of bringing them into services.

  Alan, also brought emphasis to the importance of relationships, stressing that the relationship was everything: in his experience, many young people who grow up in State care lack stable, adult relationships as they themselves move to adulthood, and that the after care relationship that the worker builds with them can be crucial in helping them to make this journey. He also stressed that often the worker needs to identify basic, tangible things to help build the relationship, such as going for coffee, having a burger with them and so forth.  He considered the lack of provision of single housing units for young people as impeding his particular work but also as a more general obstacle to working with young people at-risk, taking account that being at-risk often means they are out of home, or living in huge unsatisfactory home and community conditions.

  Following the conversations with Donnacadh and Alan, participants returned to small table discussions, and grouped around a number of themes such as outreach work, substance misuse, the care system, education and training, collaboration with parents and building community support and partnerships.

 The key points that arose throughout the whole morning’s discussion include:


The situation of young people at-risk and trying to engage them

cafe 2

Being at-risk was considered multi-faceted, with both public and hidden dimensions. Some young people are out of school, getting involved in criminality, substance misuse, hanging around corners and becoming a nuisance to other community members. Their situation – as a group - is often well known, but individually, sometimes little is known about what they are going through, as they make the difficult journey to independence and adulthood, and indeed although they may be perceived as a group member, groups have internal conflicts and dynamics especially around peer pressure, bullying, and exclusion.

  Also, other young people have serious needs that are not so publicly noticeable, such as living in families where hidden neglect and abuse has taken place over time, without any public manifestations, and again some young people may be individually disadvantaged as a result of learning disabilities, autism or mental health issues and are struggling on their own, in the midst of other disadvantages, in trying to assert their independence and autonomy.

   The challenge of identifying young people at risk was referenced and it was highlighted that in some instances being at-risk was often over shadowed by other issues, such as parental addiction or mental health, marital conflict and domestic violence, and in the midst of various family interventions, the young person may find it difficult to find a voice.

   In the discussion, it was frequently stated that young people may not be aware of their needs, or of their risky predicaments and indeed they might quite easily react negatively to being referred to as being “at-risk”. This could be carried as a label making it even more difficult to engage them; indeed, some young people get annoyed when they see they are being targeted by too many services. There was a sense that young people’s non-engagement  may be wrongly perceived as apathetic and showing poor motivation, although many participants had a strong resonance with the bridge metaphor as used by Donnacadh, and its value in trying to make sense of the distance that can exist between the young person and the worker, reinforcing that the world of the young person – on the other side of the bridge – has its own inherent value and meaning and that the worker often needs to get in touch with this world, before they can effectively reach out to the young person. It was also suggested that workers and agencies needed to re-frame the presentation of their services, from their side of the ‘bridge’, making their centres more drop-in friendly and paying particular attention to reception areas as this is where first impressions are formed.  Social media as a method of engagement and contact was also highlighted a positive medium through which to engage with young people. 


The importance of relationship-building

Throughout the various discussions there was a lot of reference to ‘back to basics’ in relationship-building, and in making relationships centre stage to engaging with young people.  It was widely agreed that relationship-building had to happen over time and that the worker needed to be prepared for multiple rejections, to be aware and conscious of barriers to relationship-building, to hold their nerve, to be flexible, and to be prepared to invest small things over time, such as birthday cards, being available and consistent, being willing to work within a harm-reduction model, and building a sense of solidarity and empathy. It was stressed that youth at-risk will often feel they have been badly let-down by the adults in their lives and their working models of what adults do could be negative – a point emphasized by Alan; he underlined that young people in the after-care system are often completely disconnected from their families of origin, and angry about being brought up in care and anxious to create distance between them and anybody associated with their care. Thus, it is going to take an accumulation of small actions over time to convince the young person that the worker is sincere and can be trusted, it was also felt that the need for this long-term approach had to be affirmed, especially by agencies who employ front-line workers; the agencies also needed to be flexible and to develop an understanding of what it takes to build and develop this work, and the workers should not always feel the need to convince their employers that this work is worthwhile, even though the evidence of engagement is not always immediately tangible.

Worker knowledge, skill and capacities to engage

It was emphasized that frontline workers are often perceived as not having the skills to work with young people at-risk, especially with those with special needs, such as autism, mental health and addictions, and that they are also unfamiliar with outreach work. There was a lot of focus on the need for upskilling workers on the frontline, in both specialist skills, as required and also in developing skills around outreach engagement; indeed, it was suggested that an investment into outreach services was needed and also that a ‘Jigsaw’-type youth mental health service should be established. It was also felt that streetwork, outreach and other developmental approaches do not lend easily to managerial systems of accountability; many workers feel pressured to respond to other demands, such as numbers participating in specific activities and that managerial and monitoring systems don’t easily provide a framework for valuing what it takes to build engagement.


Developing an integrated approach with services and families

The need for working partnerships across services, other projects and families was emphasized throughout the discussion. On the one hand while it was felt important to have targeted programmes, it was equally important to have a relationship with mainstream services – such as youthwork, education, training and housing services – so that the young people can achieve a more normal, integration within the community. The worker also needed to know who were the key community leaders and resources, and to build their credibility and knowledge about the community’s resources, strengths and weaknesses.

cafe 3

  It was also felt that relationships with families, preferably built and developed from an early stage, provide a necessary resource to support the youth at-risk long term. In this regard connections with early intervention and programmes for strengthening family capacities were emphasized, and also that families and family members should be encouraged to become engaged with various community and youth activities that surround and support the young person in growing up.

  Finally, there was some discussion about the role and purpose/benefit of the Youth at Risk Network with the suggestion that it could have the potential to build connections, attract resources, develop partnerships and initiate cooperative strategies. The idea of hosting informal area-based network discussions as a response to particular issues was also referenced, although as of yet the mechanics of doing this has not been discussed.


For your Diary

Cafe Conversation

Youth & the Cannabis issue

The next Cafe conversation is due to be held on Thursday, November 23rd, Harbour View Business Centre, 10.00am-1.00pm. This Cafe will explore issues arising in direct work with youth who habitually use cannabis.

If you wish to make a contribution to planning this event, thereby getting involved in the formal establishment of a Youth At-Risk network, we have set a planning event for Tuesday, October, 24th 2.00-3.30pm, in the Boardroom, Southside Partnership.



Alcohol treatment statistics, 2009-15

The Health Research Board issued a statistical report on alcohol treatment in Ireland, 2009-15. The report noted that the majority of those who were treated were classified as alcohol dependent (by the professionals treating them) and that in 2015 half of all those in treatment commenced drinking alcohol at or before the age of 16 years. 

Download report & infographic

 © DLR - DATF, 2016   C/O Southside Partnership, Main st., Blackrock, Co. Dublin Tel: 01-7060125 / 087-6494922