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Saol Project

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Saol Project

Mission Statement
Saol is a community project focused on improving the lives of women affected by addiction and poverty

Vision Statement
Saol is working towards transforming the way in which Ireland responds to addiction and poverty.

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Minister Catherine Byrne visits SAOL

Minister Byrne took time to meet with SAOL participants and listen to their concerns about recovery, housing, childcare and mental health

Jane gave minister Byrne a copy of a number of our publications, including our poetry book 'Chicken Soup for the SAOL'

Minister Byrne listened with care and responded to everyone

National Drugs Strategy

Saol, as well as joining with others in preparing submissions for the new National Drug Strategy, independently submitted this brief piece for consideration:

SAOL was the first women-specific, drug rehabilitation community project in Ireland. Working in Dublin's North Inner City, SAOL is focussed on improving the lives of women affected by addiction and poverty.

It provides both peer-informed and trauma-informed care, and aims to create positive meaningful change in the women’s lives through an integrated programme of education, rehabilitation, advocacy, childcare provision (with a focus on early childhood education), progression and aftercare supports. The project’s ethos is informed by respect for the dignity and rights of each woman

Based on our experiences, SAOL proposes the following aspects as critical in formulating a more relevant and effective approach to the National Drugs Strategy:


In General:

The escalation of violence in North Inner City Dublin (2016) is impacting its population, specifically vulnerable women and children already marginalised by addiction issues. It is becoming increasingly important to articulate and validate the impact of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination and other social inequalities as a key context of people’s vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harm. We would like the new strategy to include women as an at risk group; childcare as an integrated part of treatment, recovery and prevention (explained below), ‘trauma informed care’ to be the norm in addiction services and peer training to be acknowledged as a valid and researched part of service provision:


Treatment Pillar

·         We would like to see ‘women’ named as an ‘at-risk’ group.

·         We would like to see gender-responsive treatment approaches promoted and supported. These approaches should specifically address the issue of children and their care, who all too often present a purpose for but also, unfortunately, a barrier to women/mothers seeking treatment.


·         We regard the provision of childcare for women and families where there is an addiction issue to be an essential and integral element of drug services, in the continuum of care – from detox facilities to community projects.  Addiction-sensitive childcare will work in a meaningful way with the mother and/or father (or guardian) and child/children in a way that is informed by addiction and its challenges to parenting.  Main-stream childcare is, unfortunately, unable to provide such necessary care.


We encourage that the new strategy sees support for such childcare in addiction services as both supportive of treatment and rehabilitation for service users and prevention for the children concerned.  Such intervention will therefore target three pillars of the strategy.


We would hope that the provision of childcare would become a standard of best practice.

Treatment Pillar

·         SAOL considers that trauma-informed care should be the norm. Based on emerging evidence-based research, it is known that the vast majority of people (women and men) presenting with addiction issues, are traumatised. This trauma is past / present and is often re-triggered through current events. Addiction services in their entirety need to be viewed through a trauma lens, to lead to a clearer understanding of methods to implement changes that will address this trauma. Training is needed in this regard.

It is important that treatment and rehabilitation services work in a trauma-informed way so that they are not unwittingly re-traumatising their clients/patients and thereby negating much of the good work that they do.  This is necessary for every member of the organisation – Board members, secretaries, outreach workers, GPs etc.

Trauma informed work is inexpensive to commence but requires diligence from services for implementation.  Implementation of trauma informed care could be overseen by structures already in place (e.g. task forces).  Full implantation across all services is necessary for trauma informed interventions to become the norm for Irish addiction services.  We call attention to states like California in America that demand training in Trauma Informed Care before one can work in the addiction field.


Research Pillar

·         Peer training is an important aspect of people’s recovery and treatment. .  ‘Giving back’ through ‘peer work’ is a model that is supported in many fields in establishing and maintaining significant change. 

Research shows us that women, as ‘wounded healers’ best know the struggles of their own addiction and recovery, the pain of fractured relationships, the experience of domestic violence and possible separation from children due to care issues. The strength of this knowledge and experience makes them ideal candidates to work with others who are dealing with similar issues as part of their recovery journey.

Developing service users’ social capital through leadership, engagement and social integration opportunities provides an educational approach that helps people make sense and use of their experiences in addiction. Their expertise and understanding becomes an integral part of our understanding in how to help and support others.

Providing resources for Addiction services to continue to develop and critically research this approach is essential for it to progress: to be seen as a valid and progressive way of supporting recovery; to further enhance service provision; and to create a new level of engagement with service users.


SAOL has worked with peer workers since the early 2000s and in the past few years have developed peer workers and peer working through after-care services and our Hep C programme, ‘Ic2’.  Recently we have developed the BRIO programme with the Probation Service (working with women with the dual problems of criminality and addiction).  We urge the active development of this seam of resources for the addiction field through both the support of peer training and investment in research into outcomes and sustainability.

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