Everyone’s problem: The role of local alcohol services in tackling Wales’ unhealthy relationship with alcohol

English | Cymraeg

21 February 2012

Note: This report was funded and/or written by our predecessor organisation Alcohol Concern.

Executive summary

Alcohol misuse continues to be a major challenge in Wales, with many of us regularly drinking beyond the recommended guidelines. This pattern of overuse is reflected in high levels of alcohol-related illness, hospital admissions and deaths.

A wide range of alcohol services exist in Wales, providing valuable guidance and support to individual drinkers and their families, and to the wider community. These services play a vital role in dealing with the day to day consequences of alcohol misuse, and in helping us in the longer term to develop a healthier relationship with alcohol. Research has shown that local alcohol services can bring genuine personal and social benefits, and long term financial benefits in terms of reduced pressure on other public services due to alcohol-related problems.

Unsurprisingly, given the current outlook for public spending, alcohol services in Wales have serious concerns about their own financial future. These concerns are intensified by the ongoing high levels of demand for alcohol treatment. Whilst recognising current public funding constraints, Alcohol Concern argues that the immediate and long term benefits of alcohol services to individuals, society and the public purse justify supporting, developing and investing in them.

In spite of the obvious value of alcohol treatment services, stigma and embarrassment continue to be associated with publicly acknowledging an alcohol problem and seeking help for it. This is in part perpetuated by a public perception that problem drinkers are unlike normal mainstream drinkers, a notion reinforced by the drinks industry’s insistence that alcohol is a neutral product that only causes problems in the hands of irresponsible consumers.

To address these issues, Alcohol Concern recommends:

Recommendation 1

Spending on alcohol services should remain a Welsh Government priority. Official reporting on the implementation of the Welsh Substance Misuse Strategy should show clearly how much is being allocated to the prevention and treatment of alcohol misuse, and how local alcohol spending accords with national goals.

Recommendation 2

The role of Wales’ Substance Misuse Area Planning Boards (APBs) should be increased and developed in order to ensure more consistent service provision across Wales, and that local service commissioning is contributing to achieving national priorities for preventing and treating alcohol misuse.

Recommendation 3

The Welsh Government should ensure that the number of people dependent on alcohol in Wales is accurately recorded, that targets are set for the numbers of dependent drinkers accessing treatment each year, with the aim of increasing take up of services, and that sufficient resources are made available to support this.

Recommendation 4

Public health advocates need to continue to challenge the notion of alcohol as a neutral product, emphasising that whilst it is an established part of most of our social lives, it is also toxic and addictive substance with a number of intrinsic dangers.