People who receive drug and alcohol services have been sharing their experiences to help improve services and meet the needs of those who use them.
At a recent workshop the ‘Omagh Client Focus Group’ from First Housing, funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA), met other people who access substance misuse services from Belfast, Newry and Mourne to share their experiences and learning and help improve drug and alcohol service provision.
Speaking after the event, Owen O’Neill, PHA Drugs and Alcohol Lead and Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager (South Eastern), said: “The PHA recognises the importance of service user involvement as a way to ensure that services are appropriate and meet the needs of those who use them.
“Coordinating this workshop was part of the PHA’s ongoing commitment to this work, not only at service level, but also ensuring that service users become involved and have a voice in the New Strategic Direction on Alcohol and Drugs. We realise that service user involvement is at an early stage in Northern Ireland, but this workshop gave those involved an opportunity to learn from each other and increase the effectiveness of their programmes. This is only the beginning of this important work.”
This workshop builds on and develops previous involvement work, for example, service users have participated as trainers on Council for the Homeless Northern Ireland substance misuse and homelessness training programmes. They have also taken part in the training of social workers, through Queen’s University Belfast, and are involved in the management structures of the services that they use.
Gerry Kennedy of First Housing described its input to the event saying: “The Omagh Client Focus Group was developed to provide training, support and opportunities for service users, who have experience of alcohol problems, to become involved in our alcohol services. The group is a way for the views of the people who use the services to be heard and empowers members to be partners in service planning and challenging poor practice.
“I believe that active participation by people who have used services allows their knowledge and experience to influence the design, planning, delivery and evaluation of First Housing services. It is important that service users have their say and help make changes, for their own benefit and for those who use our service in the future.”
The workshop, held at the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA), was also an opportunity to make recommendations to the PHA and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) on how the service users want to be represented and involved in service planning, delivery and evaluation.
Contact PHA press office on 028 9031 1611.
Photo Caption: Pictured at ‘Sharing the Learning’ workshop, to help improve drug and alcohol service provision, are representatives from ‘First Housing’, Omagh and the Public Health Agency (L-R) Frances Hosey; James Beggs; Gerry Kennedy; Mary Deery; Owen O’Neill, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager (South Eastern), Public Health Agency; Tommy Clarke; Dessie Hamilton and Cathal Lynch.