Drinking is part of our social culture. Unlike drugs, it is legal; yet it is potentially more addictive and certainly more readily available and affordable.
Next week is Alcohol Awareness Week – when various alcohol and health-related agencies get together to make people more aware of the impact excessive drinking can have.
It also raises the profile of services such as Bradford’s Piccadilly Project, which supports those who have had their lives devastated by drink. Based in Upper Piccadilly in Bradford, the project is an alcohol advisory service for 18-year-olds and over.
Project co-ordinator Gary Malcomson and his team are well aware of the devastating impact excessive drinking can have on the sufferer, their families and the wider community.
Gary arrived in Bradford three-and-a-half years ago. He was already aware of the valuable work carried out here as he’d spent some of his final year placement for his social work degree at the project.
Providing maternity leave cover led to his initial role as a substance misuse worker. Eighteen months ago he was promoted to project co-ordinator.
Gary says clients visit the project either as a referral or through a drop-in service. Due to the chaotic lives those with serious drinking problems lead, they often can’t make appointments. The drop-in gives them the opportunity to come when they can.
“We see them straight away and do an initial assessment,” he says.
From the assessment, staff can also identify any other support agency or service their client may benefit from.
Further sessions are more structured, with group work aimed at supporting and motivating the client. They also provide referrals for detox and rehabilitation.
“We see people who are drinking a glass of wine a month and think that is too much, while others are drinking several litres of cider a day. We see the whole spectrum and it is quite a big problem,” says Gary.
As part of the awareness-raising week, Gary and his team from the Piccadilly Project are hosting an open day from 10am until 4pm next Wednesday, October 21. They are also contributing to a stall in Bradford’s Kirkgate Centre.
Gary says alcohol has previously been seen as the “poor relation” compared to drugs. But it is now being acknowledged, with investment made to provide support and stem the problem.
The project has already expanded its services; structured day care is due to start and they have a worker in a GP surgery. Gary says they are also providing training for other services and outreach for clients who, for whatever reason, cannot come to the project.
Gary says his job involves a lot of juggling but it’s extremely rewarding, even when it’s only making a tiny improvement in someone’s chaotic life.
“That is what keeps it worthwhile. We do see improvements in people,” he says.
Gary says having a passion for helping others is imperative for this type of career. “Having the time and empathy to sit down with somebody, even if it is just talking to them, being able to engage with them.”
Motivating and making people feel good about themselves are other valuable attributes candidates can bring to the role.
Those interested in this type of a career can contact Bradford College on (01274) 433333 for information on social work courses.
For further information about Alcohol Awareness Week, go to alcoholconcern.org.uk.