Human Rights: Service Users Rights In Action

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Publications: Service Users Rights In Action


CAN facilitates the Service Users Rights in Action (SURIA) group, a coalition of drug service users, service user representatives and community activists. SURIA came together in 2009 to address concerns relating to the human rights of people who are on long-term methadone treatment. The three key areas of concern which we believe to be human rights abuses are:

  • The practice of urine sampling of those on methadone treatment – most of whom found this practice to be degrading and to be in place based on a false assumption that service users are somehow ‘cheating’. 
  • The lack of any meaningful review of the cases of individual service users, or any development of a care plan. 
  • Lack of choice: most service users hate methadone and would like to come off it, yet 94% of service users said they had never been offered any alternative to methadone. 

The SURIA group has confirmed that the persistence of these issues represents a denial of the human rights of those concerned, especially their right to adequate health – see: United Nations factsheet on the Right to Health.

Since 2012, this campaign has achieved the following: 

  • Initiated an engagement process with Duty Bearers. 
  • 2 dialogues and subsequent seminars and workshops. 
  • Public Sector Duty Pilot Project. 
  • Meetings and events with HSE, Department, Service Providers, community projects. 
  • Presentation to Oireachtas cross party group. 
  • 4 rounds of peer research and monitoring reports. 
  • Monitored progress. 
  • Held Duty Bearers to account. 
  • Successfully requested an Equality Review conducted by IHREC – HSE ending supervised urine sampling and agreeing to implement an Action Plan. 

Currently CAN is working directly with teams of service users and their support workers within four Drugs Task Forces and Community groups to bed down the human rights approach and to conduct a fifth round of peer led research and monitoring. 

SURIA video produced by CAN

In 2022 CAN and SURIA set about embedding this human rights based approach into existing projects that are core to the delivery of drugs services. This has resulted in two ongoing projects: 

CAN / SURIA programme with Drugs Task Forces

This is a national online programme designed to develop the capacity of service users and support workers within Drugs Services to generate broad-based community ownership for the progressive realisation of equality and human rights issues as identified by service users.   

Participants attend in small groups from within each of the four participating Drugs Task Forces and the national advocacy service for drug users. Each group has at least two service users and one support worker who work together during the programme to apply the learning within their own area. The programme runs until June 2023 and anticipated outcomes for participants include: 

  • Having increased knowledge, expertise, competence, and self confidence in their leadership role within their own area. 
  • Build an effective network of peers with whom they can work collectively for change in the service provision of Drugs Services. 
  • Strengthen the voice of service users within and across areas while at the same time build a scaffolding of support around them. 
  • Identify, monitor and address human rights violations experienced by service users within and across areas. 
  • Develop skills in carrying out and analysing peer research. 
  • Build the capacity of host organisations to implement and support service user engagement. 


ICON is a community network that is based in the northeast inner-city area, committed to fighting disadvantage and ensuring that the voice of the community is heard.  It is a voluntary organisation made up of community projects, local tenant’s groups, as well as individuals working and living in the area. 

In 2022, ICON successfully secured funding to contract CAN and SURIA to apply a public sector equality and human rights approach to issues identified by service users of drug treatment projects in the northeast inner-city. The project will deliver evidence-based peer led research as well as hosting three awareness-based events on Public Sector Duty. The focus on peer led research at a local level will promote community ownership, learning and development and retain a strong focus on the systemic change that is required to address the human rights and equality issues of service users as identified by CAN and SURIA in previous rounds of research. 

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Human Rights Overview
Racial Justice Overview
Collective Complaints
Service Users Rights In Action
Community Safety
Community Benefit From Public Procurement
Rialto Rights In Action
Abusive Lending Practice
Publications: Human Rights