What if every door seems to be shut? Alcohol Change UK’s national conference: Opening Doors

January 2023 | 7 minutes

At our national online conference on Thursday 2 March 2023, we’ll be looking at how we can make alcohol support more easily accessible for people who have been marginalised.

We talk a lot these days about a “no wrong door” approach to support. It’s the idea that wherever someone turns up in the system – mental health, substance use, housing, social services – they’ll get the help they need for the issues they’re facing; and that includes issues that could be described as complex, such as co-occurring alcohol use and mental ill-health.

Knocking on one service provider’s door is supposed to be all that’s necessary. But what if every door seems to be shut? Despite the best intentions of many conscientious staff and volunteers, that’s the experience of many people from marginalised groups.

Research by Glasgow Caledonian University highlighted how LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience alcohol problems and to encounter barriers to support, and how they often have little or no confidence that services will understand them. Gypsy, Traveller and Roma people face significant health inequalities – including in mental health and substance use – and frequently have experience of discrimination, leading to mistrust and low expectations about services. Within the Punjabi community, concerns have been expressed about “parachuting in ‘white’ [alcohol] services” that are culturally irrelevant and inaccessible.

People’s relationship with alcohol is rarely simple. It can be shaped by gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and many other factors. Anyone seeking to support people to avoid alcohol problems, or to overcome them, needs to recognise that complexity if they’re going to do their job well.

Practitioners may be unsure how to start engaging with these issues, but there are plenty of people out there researching and developing services, to help us all do better. At our Opening Doors conference on Thursday 2 March, we’ll be hearing from some of those researchers and practitioners – as well as from people with lived experience – about how we can embrace complexity and develop solutions that work for diverse individuals and communities.

Speakers will include:

  • Prof Sarah Galvani, on what kinds of alcohol support work for South Asian women
  • Pete Nelson and Dr Sharon Tabberer on how alcohol shapes experiences of belonging in marginalised groups
  • Swansea University’s Telling our own stories project team, on listening to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people’s experiences of alcohol
  • Gary Meek from Glasgow Council on Alcohol, on how can we be visibly supportive of LGBTQ+ people affected by alcohol and/or drug use

Alcohol Change UK’s conferences are focussed on helping people develop practical approaches to real-world issues. Opening Doors will be an opportunity to find out more about how your service can adapt and develop to better meet more people’s needs. If you’re working to reduce alcohol harm for all, then this is the conference for you.

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