Change at a local level

Fraser Kerr, East Ayrshire Alcohol and Drugs Partnership | November 2018 | 7 minutes

East Ayrshire is one of thousands of local authorities across the country working to change their communities’ relationships with alcohol, to reduce alcohol harm and improve lives. Here, Fraser Kerr from the area’s alcohol and drug partnership describes some of the work they are doing.

East Ayrshire has a population of over 122,000 and covers an area of 490 square miles. The county is 30 miles southwest of Glasgow. The impact of rurality on our population is significant, so increased access to services an important focus for us.

The alcohol and drug partnership (ADP), which is a sub group of the Community Planning Partnership in East Ayrshire, helps to co-ordinate drug and alcohol services and works with various agencies to ensure that the drug and alcohol strategy is successfully implemented in the community.

This year the ADP has been working to try and influence change in our community in order to improve health and promote recovery. Here are just a few of our projects that we hope will act as the impetus for change in our community.

Changing licensing

Last year in Scotland there were 16,678 alcohol licences in force with 396 new applications granted and 14 refused. That’s 1% of all license applications refused. Given the link between alcohol availability and consumption (increasing availability is likely to lead to increased consumption), this is a worrying statistic. The East Ayrshire Licensing Board have recently declared that East Ayrshire is overprovided for off-sale premises. This was after receiving evidence from a variety of stakeholders: Alcohol Focus Scotland, CRESH, Public Health Ayrshire and Arran and a community engagement survey which received over 700 responses. This represents a big change in our community and sets a precedent which challenges the perception of alcohol as an ordinary commodity.

Improving services

In May and July we held sessions to get local people’s views about how we can improve our support and treatment services, for example by changing opening hours. Crucially, these sessions were attended by people in recovery who often had experience with the services. It’s their experience, their life, their recovery – so we need their feedback. Service practitioners also attended, so they could hear feedback directly. There is now a desire to create an on-demand front door recovery service which would see people who needed help when they needed it. We are currently working towards this change.

Shifting the conversation

At the start of the year it was noticed that there was a lot of unhelpful language in the local press with regard to people with drug and alcohol problems. We went on the new local podcast, Killiecast, to talk with a local reporter about the adoption of more positive language. Subsequently, we promoted the local papers’ articles about people in recovery. Reporting has started to change for the better. We hope to embed this further over the coming months with our Recovery Conference in December.

These are just the beginnings of change in our community. We will keep thinking outside the box to make a difference.