The Family Angle: May 2017

Everything you need to know about families, drugs and alcohol.

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Regional Roundup

Parliamentary Roundup



In Focus


June sees the arrival of not just one but two weeks which illuminate, and celebrate, the vital work done by groups of often overlooked people. First comes Volunteers Week (1-7 June) which rightly reminds us of the many citizens who, in the words of NCVO, “make Britain great”. Next is Carers Week (12-18 June) which does likewise for the, arguably, even less recognised people doing their best to sustain, nurture and love their nearest and dearest through times of ill emotional, mental or physical health. Both groups are immensely important to Adfam. 
Whether they identify with the carers label or not – and many don’t – the family members of those with drug or alcohol problems provide an enormous amount of care and support that is vital in sustaining recovery journeys. Some family members do take on extensive caring duties – research from Grandparents Plus, for instance, found that drugs and alcohol were the most common reasons grandparent carers ended up looking after their grandkids. This role may entail major life changes, with minimal additional support from the state. Whatever their situation, families are a major source of sometimes hidden “recovery capital” which enables some of our most vulnerable citizens to enter meaningful recovery and become happier and healthier people.
Many people who begin as carers end up as volunteers. There are numerous examples of organisations around the country set up by family members themselves to provide local answers to the sometimes highly troubling local questions posed by addiction in the community. Hetty’s in Mansfield and Bridges in Stockton-on-Tees are two examples. Many of the groups which are set up initially by volunteers end up being commissioned by the local authority and/or receiving funding from charitable trusts and foundations. This is always great to see. Many of course rely extensively on volunteers to help reach and support the families they work with – as indeed does Adfam itself. Our national projects with bereaved people and those experiencing child-to-parent abuse, as well as our work focused in the London Boroughs of Newham and Greenwich, and the North East have volunteers as their lifeblood.
So here’s a massive thanks from all of us at Adfam to both groups – you truly make Britain great.
In other news:
  • Have you been affected by drug or alcohol use in your family, or know someone who has? Please take a look at the Families Living with Addiction and Recovery survey – the result of our ground-breaking partnership with Sheffield Hallam University’s Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice.
  • On 9 May, Westminster Abbey hosted a moving event organised by our friends at DrugFAM. This highlighted the experiences and losses of the many families in this country affected by drug or alcohol use – in the most powerful of settings.
  • The final peer support group of our fantastic bereavement project with Cruse Bereavement Care – BEAD – is starting in London on 4 July and running for eight weeks. Email Rob if you’d like to know more.
Best wishes,

Director of Policy and Communications

Regional Roundup

Here is a roundup of what’s been going on regionally:
  • We met with members of the East Midlands forum in Nottingham.
  • We ran Child to Parent Abuse practitioner training in Birmingham for 17 participants from a range of services.
  • We held our regular forum in the East of England, welcoming several new faces to the group.
  • We held our regular forum in London sharing best practice and hearing about Borderline Personality Disorder.
  • We visited ‘More Than Grandparents’, a long-standing kinship peer support group doing wonderful work in Sunderland.
  • We visited Middlesbrough to meet Sara, the practitioner setting up a new family support service in the area.
To find out more about our regional work, contact Becky Allon-Smith.

Parliamentary Roundup

As Parliament has been dissolved in the run up to the General Election on 8 June, this month we are looking at what the three main political parties have promised about drugs and alcohol in their manifestos.

  • Prisons should help prisoners learn English, maths and the work skills they need to get a job when they leave prison, whilst providing the help prisoners require to come off drugs and deal with mental health problems.
  • Ensure that police and crime commissioners sit on local health and wellbeing boards, enabling better co-ordination of crime prevention with local drug and alcohol and mental health services. 
  • Improve the co-ordination of mental health services with other local services, including police forces and drug and alcohol rehabilitation services.
  • Prison should always be used as a last resort. It should never be a substitute for failing mental health services, or the withdrawal of funding from drug treatment centres.
  • Implement a strategy for the children of alcoholics based on recommendations drawn up by independent experts.
Liberal Democrats
  • Make people aware of the dangers of smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol and other drugs. Introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol, subject to the final outcome of the legal challenge in Scotland.
  • End imprisonment for possession of illegal drugs for personal use, diverting those arrested for possession of drugs for personal use into treatment and education (adopting a health-based approach), or imposing civil penalties.
  • Break the grip of the criminal gangs and protect young people by introducing a legal, regulated market for cannabis. Introduce limits on potency and permit cannabis to be sold through licensed outlets to adults over the age of 18.
  • Concentrate on catching and prosecuting those who manufacture, import or deal in illegal drugs. 
  • Repeal the Psychoactive Substances Act which has driven the sale of formerly legal highs underground.
  • Move the departmental lead on drugs policy to the Department of Health.


Families Living with Addiction and Recovery - Adfam & Sheffield Hallam University
In partnership with Sheffield Hallam University and funded by Alcohol Research UK, Adfam has launched the Families Living with Addiction and Recovery survey. This is the first nationwide survey which will document the lives of family members of people in addiction and recovery from alcohol and other drugs. The survey is open until the end of July.

Alcohol Structures Consultation - HM Treasury
Announced in the Spring Budget, this Government consultation on the structure of the alcohol duty system asks for feedback on: the introduction of a new band to target cheap, high strength ‘white’ ciders, below 7.5% abv, and the impacts of a new lower strength still wine band to encourage the production and consumption of lower strength wines. The consultation closes on 12 June.


Global Drug Survey 2016 (pdf)
The Global Drug Survey (GDS) is the world’s biggest annual drug survey, with a total of 101,313 people from over 50 countries participating in 2016. The key findings reflect that more people are shopping on the dark net, more people are using and are being harmed by MDMA, and synthetic cannabinoids are more likely to lead to emergency medical treatment than any other drug.

United Kingdom Drug Situation 2016 (pdf) - UK Focal Point on Drugs
The United Kingdom Focal Point on Drugs, based at Public Health England, is the national partner of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), and provides comprehensive and analytical information on the drug situation in the UK. This report suggests that the overall prevalence of drug use in the general population is lower now than 10 years ago, with cannabis being the main driver of that reduction. However, there has been little change in recent years.

Adult drinking habits in Great Britain: 2005 to 2016 - ONS
The Office for National Statistics has published the latest statistics on adult drinking habits in Great Britain. The data is from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN), a face-to-face interview with around 7,700 involved in 2016. 57% of respondents drank alcohol, and young people aged 16 to 24 were less likely to drink than any other age group.

Carers Week 2017 - Carers UK
Carers Week 2017 will take place from 12-18 June. It will focus on building Carer Friendly Communities, which support carers to look after their loved ones well, while highlighting the challenges carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.

In Focus - "A tsunami of change"

On two cold and windswept days in early May, over 300 people gathered in Milton Keynes to attend the 2nd National Summit for Tackling Multiple Disadvantage. Delegates came from all over the country and from several different sectors – homelessness, mental health, criminal justice and substance use – and from a variety of different backgrounds: from commissioners and chief executives, to researchers and policy analysts, to frontline workers and those with lived experience. All were motivated by a desire to see change for some of the most vulnerable groups in our society.

Over the two days there were lively debates and innovative ideas shared. As someone still relatively new to the policy area of multiple disadvantage, I was fascinated to hear from and speak to more experienced colleagues, and of course those who’ve themselves lived through some of the issues we discussed. Some of the key themes that emerged were:
  1. People should be put at the heart of service delivery. Everyone’s experience of multiple disadvantage is different, and it is better to focus on the person as a whole rather than specific issues in isolation. We need to get to the root causes of multiple disadvantage and tackle them, rather than just manage the symptoms.
  2. There needs to be greater multi-agency working. Often people experiencing multiple disadvantage are passed from one service to another to another, disempowering them and meaning that in many cases they fall through the gaps. People’s problems rarely come in isolation, and so services should work together to tackle them, with each client assigned a lead worker to navigate them through the system.
  3. Changes to commissioning. Many of the problems with service delivery at the moment stem from the way that services are commissioned in silos. If commissioning is more integrated, then services will be too. Likewise, commissioners should recognise that change takes time, and longer contracts would enable continuity of services.
  4. The voices of people with lived experience matter. Those who have first-hand experience of multiple disadvantage are often the best-placed to offer advice and insight into how services and systems can be improved. They should be engaged in meaningful ways, rather than just being tokenistic.
  5. The issues need to be reframed in a way which resonates with the general public. We need to get better at shouting about our successes, but we also need to tackle the stigma which so often surrounds people with multiple disadvantage. While much of the stigma around mental health has rightly been diminished, this has not been the case for other issues; as Karen Biggs, Chief Executive of Phoenix Futures, said “We need a tsunami of change in the way society views people in addiction and recovery.”
Overall, while there is some fantastic work being done around the country, there is still a long way to go. Whoever is in power after the General Election on 8 June will have to face up to some of these issues – and we must do our best to influence their priorities. Understandably much of the work around multiple disadvantage is focused on individuals, but at Adfam we are really keen to ensure that the voices of families and carers are heard as well.

With best wishes,

Alison Hill
Policy and Communications Assistant
Copyright © 2017 Adfam, All rights reserved.

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