Applications are open for the 2016 Alcohol Research UK Research Innovation Grants programme, which must be received by 1 November 2016.
Applications are open for the 2016 Alcohol Research UK Research Innovation Grants programme, which must be received by 1 November 2016.
Findings from a £1 million project to support ten key areas to tackle alcohol-related problems have been released by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG).
Not to be confused with the Home Office led Local Alcohol Action Areas (LAAAs), the ten main 'alcohol fund' areas were announced in 2012 as a two year project led by Baroness Newlove, the Government's Champion for Active, Safer Communities and pledged in the Government Alcohol Strategy.
Download the The Alcohol fund: end of project report slides [pdf]
The overall aims of the project were to 'develop sustainable community-based approaches to tackle problem drinking' and 'test innovative ideas' involving partnership approaches to:
Expected outcomes according to the end of project report were a 'direct measurable reduction in anti-social behaviour' and evidence of partnership working. However the 2012 announcement also detailed outcomes including fewer A&E admissions, reduced consumption by young people and reduced proxy sales. The report does acknowledge 'accessing A&E figures has been an issue for some areas'.
The report gives a summary of the activity undertaken in the participating areas as well outcomes (or output) data. The summaries capture a range of activity relating to the various work strand areas, with young people focused educational activities appearing the most common.
Critics of the project might be keen to point out the limited evidence to support education or awareness based approaches, as well as the sparse detailing of actual outcomes or 'innovative ideas which can be disseminated more widely'. Questions also exist over partnership working as a valid focus of activity in itself, and one might expect more of a report following £1million worth of activity (assuming there is nothing further to be released).
On the other hand, demonstrating the impact of alcohol action is indeed difficult, and work to support and engage young people may have broader value than just its possible impact on alcohol use. Activities to reduce alcohol-related crime and disorder too can be valid for addressing both actual or perceived levels of crime, whilst making local alcohol action happen does indeed tend to require partnerships and resources. The report identifies that the project kick-started local action in some areas and levered in extra funding in others.
However the project may still be prone to the same criticisms as the 2012 Government Alcohol Strategy that announced it; a heavy focus on crime and disorder and young people may be seen as alcohol policy influenced more by politics than evidence.
The New Directions in the Study of Alcohol Group (NDSAG) has announced its 39th Annual Conference 2015 [pdf] which will take place in London on 21st and 22nd of May.
The conference will explore a range of areas, including the headline theme 'Addicted to Recovery?', looking at the latest research on alcohol addiction in the context of the recovery agenda, related addictions, policy, and practice.
Confirmed speakers are to include: Prof. Keith Humphreys (Stanford University, USA), Prof. Anne Lingford Hughes (Imperial College, London), Prof. Marc Lewis (Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands), Prof. David Best (Sheffield Hallam University and Monash University, Australia), Prof. Colin Drummond (National Addiction Centre, Kings College London), Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones (National Problem Gambling Clinic, UK), Tim Leighton (Action on Addiction, UK), Alistair Sinclair (UK Recovery Federation), Clive Henn (Alcohol Policy Team, Public Health England), Dr Niamh Fitzgerald (University of Stirling, Scotland) and more.
See the New Directions website for more details and future announcements including the annual Ron McKechnie prize which offers a full conference bursary.
The Alcohol Academy are organising a national conference to explore key issues facing the delivery and implementation of 'Identification and Brief Advice' (IBA) in the UK. The event will take place on Monday 20th April in Birmingham. Formal registration will open shortly but you can register your interest by contacting Cath@alcoholacademy.net or see the event flyer [pdf] for more information.
Global Alcohol Policy Conference 2015
The Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA) and Alcohol Focus Scotland are to co-host the next Global Alcohol Policy Conference which will be held in Edinburgh from 7-9 October 2015.
'Momentum for change: research and advocacy reducing alcohol harm' will look at key themes including: Implementing Effective Alcohol Policies; Barriers to Implementing Effective Alcohol Policies; Building Support for Protecting Children’s Right to Grow Up Free from Alcohol Marketing & Building a Global Network.
Prospective presenters are encouraged to submit abstracts in relation to new research, effective advocacy approaches and national or global policy. The abstract submission deadline is 6 March 2015. For more information and booking (from late January) visit the conference website: www.gapc2015.com.
The British Sociological Association (BSA) are holding Alcohol Explorations: A Research Methods Workshop which will take place at in London on Friday February 27 2015. The event is aimed at academics interested in alcohol research methods, exploring issues such as 'how can sociological research help us to understand the complex subjective, embodied and sensory experiences of drunkenness and intoxication?'. See the flyer here or contact Dr. Thomas Thurnell-Read for more details.
Alcohol Research UK are inviting universities to apply for one of three jointly-funded research studentships for studies commencing in the academic year 2015/16. Each studentship will offer £7,000 per year match funding for three years, to enable a student to undertake research in the alcohol field leading to a PhD. Please see the prospectus for full details. The deadline for receipt of applications is 26th January 2015.
The Centre for Public Health at the Faculty of Education, Health and Community, Liverpool John Moores University, is organising its first Public Heath PhD Symposium and doctoral students are currently invited to submit abstracts.
The funding will be part of a 'Rethink Good Health' programme, a UK-wide initiative which aims to 'help inform policy and practice about preventing alcohol-related harm in later life, improve health and wellbeing of people aged 50 and over who are at risk of developing alcohol problems and help build more effective services aimed at alcohol-related issues'.
Problem drinking doesn’t happen in isolation – there are always other factors involved. This is especially true for the over 50s who can end up drinking at harmful levels as they face challenging life transitions such as retirement, the loss of a loved one or loneliness.
A recent report from Keele and UCL explored influences on older adult's drinking as an area of increasing significance within an ageing population. In 2012 an Alcohol Research UK report on working with older drinkers explored alcohol problems and treatment needs need amongst older adults whilst last year an Alcohol Concern briefing warned of a 150% rise in hospital admissions for over 60’s with alcohol related mental health problems. A report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists advised over 65's should not drink more than 1.5 units of alcohol a day and have a leaflet outlining the key alcohol issues and risks for older people.
A recent Telegraph report warned over the 'hidden toll of alcoholism among elderly middle class women, partly fuelled by the growth of online shopping delivery services.'
A channel 4 news report also looked at alcohol problems in older adults, and commissioned a poll on the reasons why the over 60s drink versus under 30s. See it's report on one older drinker's battle with alcohol dependency.
A new Alcohol Concern report looking at the impact of the public health transfer suggests the local strategic prioritisation of alcohol may not be being matched by investment in services. It found that although most local authorities say they expect alcohol funding to stay the same or increase, many treatment providers were concerned or had recently experienced cuts.
The report, 'A measure of change: an evaluation of the impact of the public health transfer to local authorities on alcohol', documents findings from a first wave survey sent out to 30 of the 152 upper tier local authorities. The findings aim to explore the levels of prioritisation and funding of alcohol across areas with various levels of harm. The survey was also sent to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and treatment providers in the same areas.
Tom Smith Policy Programme Manager at Alcohol Concern said:
“As may have been expected, spending on alcohol services remained unchanged in many areas in the first year after the public health transfer to local authorities but there are anxieties, certainly from treatment providers, about the future.
“It is a real concern for the future that those local authority areas battling against the worst levels of alcohol-related harm are the least likely to expect increased funding for alcohol.
“Alcohol misuse has a huge impact on local communities so it’s vital that local authorities recognise this and create joined up strategies to address all the issues. Both treatment and prevention services need to be given clear prioritisation and responsibility must not be allowed to fall between the gaps of local bodies and service’s remits.”
The report follows a recent survey by Alcohol Concern that found that although most key local needs assessment documents recognised alcohol, most did not go far enough to address the full impact of alcohol misuse.
Indeed it seems that whilst many areas identify the need to address alcohol harms as a priority, a mixed local picture looks set to remain the norm. Issues such as funding constraints, the recently uprooted commissioning landscape, and arguably no central pressure or targets may be considered the current key challenges - many others have been previously identified in this 2009 research on the Orientation and Integration of Alcohol Policy.
Last year Alcohol Concern also published a Guide to Alcohol for Councillors to help them address alcohol harm within the new landscape. NICE has a comprehensive set of alcohol guidance and quality standards, including alcohol pathways and further tools. NICE have also released Public Health alcohol guidance for local authorities.
DrugScope have published a report detailing how policy and commissioning changes are affecting drug and alcohol services.
State of the Sector 2013 [pdf] contains the findings from a survey of nearly 170 drug and alcohol services in England. It finds the drug and alcohol sector in a period of flux and facing a number of challenges:
In 2010 Alcohol Concern published a report calling for increased support for dependent drinkers, suggesting that doubling the number in treatment could save £1.7 billion. The number of drinkers recieving treatment has risen slightly over recent years.
Building Recovery in Communities: regional events
DrugScope is hosting a series of regional summits on behalf of the Recovery Partnership, with the next ones taking place on 4th March 2014 in Manchester and 17th March in Brighton. The 'Building Recovery in Communities' events aim to provide an up-to-date briefing on policy developments, and a chance to hear from and debate with key decision-makers and service providers in the regions.
See our recent round up of forthcoming alcohol events here.
Comic Relief 'Give it up' grants to promote abstinence based recovery
Comic Relief have opened two grant programmes spearheaded by Russel Brand. First, a pilot scheme that will build a community-wide approach in local areas to increase the support available to help people sustain recovery. Secondly, grants of up to £5,000 to help ‘recovery graduates’ and others run activities and other services focused on helping people to sustain recovery and reduce stigma towards those with addictions.
Survey on the development of a treatment service Quality Framework
The Substance Misuse Skills Consortium is seeking brief views on the development of a Quality Framework for community drug and alcohol treatment services. The survey presents possible options for the development of a new framework and is aimed at commissioners, practitioners, those involved in quality assurance and standards in treatment providers, service-users and their families.
PHE residential rehab stocktake survey
Public Health England are carrying out surveys on residential rehab in response to interest in how the changes to healthcare and commissioning systems are impacting on the sector. There are two online surveys, one for commissioners and one for providers - each should take 10-15 minutes to complete. The deadline for completion is 21 February.
Drugscope, the national organisation representing the drug treatment sector, has published a briefing exploring the public health reforms and their expected impacts on drug and alcohol services.
The briefing explains the key changes including:
In April 2013, the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse will be abolished and its key functions transferred into Public Health England. Most of the current budget for drug and alcohol services will be transferred to Directors of Public Health employed by Local Authorities, who will also be statutory members of the new Health and Wellbeing Boards.
Directors of Public Health (DPH) will be responsible for delivering public health outcomes in their local area, will control the bulk of drug and alcohol funding and will oversee a department or directorate that will be responsible for delivering the outcomes from the local Health and Wellbeing Strategy. Health and Wellbeing Boards (HWBs) will set out local strategies through the development of Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNAs) and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies (JHWSs). A new executive agency, Public Health England (PHE), will take the national lead on public health issues from April 2013.'
On 10 January 2013, the Government announced the ring fenced public health grants for upper tier and unitary local authorities for 2013-14 and 2014-15. A total of £2.66 billion in 2013 -14 and £2.79 billion in 2014-15 will be available to local authorities to spend on public health services for their local populations. This money absorbs an estimated £800 million to a £billion plus of current drug and alcohol funding. This means that approximately a third of the local authority grant for public health will be comprised of money that has to date been invested in drug and alcohol interventions, including what was contained in the 2012-2013 pooled treatment budget and the former health support component of DIP (total around £460 million).
A briefing on Primary Care Drug and Alcohol Treatment: Commissioning and Provision Against a Backdrop of Localism has been produced by The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and Substance Misuse Management in General Practice (SMMGP). The briefing considers the future impact of the changing commissioning environment on primary care drug and alcohol treatment.
The Cabinet Office and the LGA are launching an academy to help senior public servants improve commissioning, reports the Guardian.
The 10 communities that will receive funding for work to tackle binge and underage drinking have been announced by Communities and Local Government. The fund was opened for bids earlier this year by Baroness Newlove, the government's Champion for Active, Safer Communities.
The CLG press release states:
Over the next two years these innovative grassroots projects, backed by local authorities, police and retailers, are expected to deliver real results to end the fallout of problem drinking. Other communities will hopefully be inspired to follow their lead. The projects will address separate issues that are the greatest challenges in their neighbourhoods, with measures of their success that will include:
Among the projects that will receive funding are:
The DCLG report, Building Safe, Active Communities: strong foundations by local people sets out tackling alcohol harms as one of Baroness Newlove's key priorities. A report which captures progress on innovative projects to make communities safer was also released earlier this year.
The fund was included in the recent Government Alcohol Strategy which committed to introducing minimum unit pricing. However the strategy has also been criticised of being overly crime and disorder focused, with insufficient attention to treatment and prevention.
Over recent years the South East Alcohol Innovation Programme (SEAIP) delivered a variety of projects aiming to reduce alcohol-related harm across the South East. The programme was commissioned by the Government Office for the South East and delivered by the Centre for Public Innovation.
The evaluation, supported by Lundbeck pharmaceutical company, covers 10 projects, assessing their performance and potential for cost savings over the period between 2009-2011. Key findings support recommendations from the Alcohol Improvement Programme's list of High Impact Changes.
Download the South East Alcohol Innovation Programme Evaluation Report [pdf] or see the CPI press release.
The most potentially cost effective projects were those which addressed so-called Frequent Flyers, where intensive case management of patients with serious alcohol conditions can result in better management in the community. This can result in admissions avoidance and reduced unnecessary A&E attendance. Alcohol Identification and Brief Advice (IBA) by Pharmacy staff has also shown potential for cost savings. This project, together with some of the Frequent Flier projects, has been adopted as a QIPP initiative in the South East.
Less tangible potential cost savings were demonstrated by some of the other projects, including those which promoted Self Help, an IBA training project for health workers and 2 other Frequent Flier projects. However, even where cost-benefits were not immediately identifiable, the SEAIP state that other benefits were clearly obtained, such as improved working relationships and local "Champion" development.
Recommendations from the evaluation call on commissioners to gain an in-depth picture of local alcohol harm, adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to problems, ensure adequate data capture and sharing, and allocate adequate staff time to deliver on initiatives to reduce alcohol harms.
Further alcohol projects, reports and guidance can be found from the Alcohol Learning Centre, including a report on the findings from the Alcohol National Support Team. A full suite of NICE alcohol guidance is also now available.
This month saw the launch of Alcohol Research UK, which takes over the work of the Alcohol Education and Research Council (AERC). The AERC will be abolished in 2012 as part of the Government’s review of ‘Arms Length Bodies’.
Alcohol Research UK is an independent registered charity, governed by a board of trustees who are assisted by a small dedicated staff team and a number of associates who sit on the Grants Committee. The AERC’s assets and activities were transferred to Alcohol Research UK in March 2011.
During its near 30-year existence, the AERC awarded over 500 project grants and around 200 studentships, with a total value of more than £12 million. It was recognised as a vital funder of research into alcohol-related harm, often being the only source of funding available to institutions and individuals working on important studies in this specialised field.
Alcohol Research UK has three goals for the next five years. They are:
See the Alcohol Research UK blog for comments and insights into the field, or sign up to the newsletter. See here for information on grants, or visit the alcohol library for previously funded research projects and findings.