Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex B

Development of new Drug Strategy for Northern Ireland (1998)


  To seek the views of adults and young people on a range of issues, including, what people thought about (a) the current drug situation; (b) the level of treatment services available; (c) the Government's efforts to tackle this issue; and, (d) any other ideas on a way forward.


  A number of methods were chosen including focus groups selected by an independent interviewing organisation, an advertisement in all the main regional and local newspapers seeking views, and two conferences.


  The response level for the focus groups and conferences was very good, but newspaper advertisements produced only three responses, two of which were from outside Northern Ireland.


  In total, there were 10 focus groups. Each group prepared (a) a detailed report of all that was actually said; and (b) a summary report of the key issues raised. The Team undertaking the Review of Drugs during the report stage then considered these summaries. The responses to the newspaper advertisement did not add significantly to the consultation process.

  The conferences were used to report progress and give the statutory and voluntary organisations an opportunity to discuss some of the key findings and develop them further.

  The review of drugs also included consultation with a large number of key people working in the statutory and voluntary sector to tackle the problem of drugs.

Ways in which the NIO's decision making processes have been adapted to take account of Public Consultation

  As the drug culture is seen by many as a rapidly evolving issue, it was considered important to seek the views of the general public, together with those representing local government, trade unions, teachers, parents, drug users, young people, church leaders etc in order that the government's co-ordinated efforts to tackle the issue were developed further. It was essential that an integrated strategy involving these groups, together with the police and Customs and Excise, was developed and implemented.

Lessons learnt by NIO regarding good (and bad) practice in Consultation

  A number of practical lessons were learnt, including:

    —  Despite the best efforts of the Review Team, a number of organisations who should have beeen consulted were omitted.

    —  The time allowed for consultations is never long enough for some organisations.

    —  Avoid carrying out consultations during holiday periods.

    —  Organisations, which you would expect to respond during consultations rarely, do, and some then write in to complain that they were not consulted—consultation documents rarely reach the "right" people.

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