In developing a new National Drugs Strategy, the Department of Health appointed RPS to promote and manage the public consultation in a manner that ensured widespread public participation. RPS developed a consultation strategy with clear objectives that sought to reach stakeholders and the general public across Ireland via a traditional and digital public relations promotional strategy. A range of tools were employed to encourage public participation. Accessibility was key to success and so we provided multiple channels for people to provide their feedback including through an online questionnaire, orally over the telephone, by email, by post, and at six round-table regional events across the country. RPS developed an online questionnaire in several languages including English, Irish, Polish and Urdu. We also organised and facilitated six regional events where a number of keynote speeches were followed by round-table discussions that we documented. In addition, in consultation with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs we developed a separate event and questionnaire for young people to ensure that their views were included.
To promote the consultation, we planned and organised a ministerial media launch, with the Minister of State for Communities and the National Drugs Strategy, and a high profile Dublin GAA player. This generated extensive national, local and online media coverage, as well as social media conversations, all of which ensured high public awareness of the consultation and resulted in queries and submissions being made from the very first day.
The result was almost 3,000 submissions from all over Ireland. RPS prepared a detailed consultation report for the Department and presented findings to the Steering Committee and the Minister on a number of occasions. In addition, the Department of Health dedicated an entire chapter of its new National Drugs Strategy to the public consultation.