This month we take a look at an alcohol and drug service in Glasgow, the Glasgow Council on Alcohol, who work to reduce harm caused by alcohol and drugs with a range of programmes touching on a broader range of Community Safety issues – including reducing reoffending, social isolation , discrimination and gender based violence.

Our Communications Officer, David Barbour, also works as an Alcohol Brief Intervention Practitioner with GCA. He’s been leading some work on LGBT inclusivity and health inequalities at GCA, which is beginning to attract the attention of other drug and alcohol services. Make sure you read about this work further down this page!

Spotlight on GCA Services

A-C-E 10 Structured Group work programme (Achieving Compliance through Education)

The A-C-E 10 session prevention and education programme is aimed at addressing offending behaviour incorporating education on health and personal impact of substance use, coping skills, relapse prevention, achieving personal goals and maintaining recovery.

On completion, clients have reported the following changes to their lives:

  • Improved relations with families and friends
  • Improved confidence and thought processes
  • Develop trust and confidence from the group
  • Increased awareness of the effects of alcohol and an ability to achieve alcohol reduction

By referring clients to other GCA in house services, Elevate and Building Positive Pathways, clients have identified a reduction in isolation and a feeling of increased self-worth.

Our service has helped improve communities by developing the personal skills and understanding of clients so that they are better prepared to make a more positive impact.

Prison Throughcare Support (Throughcare planning for release from prison)

This service provides person centred support using a holistic approach to advice and information.   A harm reduction approach towards drug and alcohol use is created with interventions to help address offending behaviour.

Our clients have identified benefits from this service when we have provided links to other services such as housing, DWP, charities and LGBT groups.  We also help create contacts for basic medical checks such as GPs and dentists.  Our emotional needs based support has helped build self-confidence and independence.

We also offer advice and information workshops for families who are affected by loved ones in prison.  Our first event is scheduled 27th August 2019, where we hope to include information stalls from: Elevate, 218 Project, Conversation Cafes, DWP, and the various Prison Throughcare Teams throughout Scotland.

Reconnecting Women’s Programme 

Women referred to this service are supported to engage in gender focused support, peer led diversionary activities and personal development options where appropriate.

Outcomes from this service have included: improved confidence, reduction in isolation and  an ability to break cycle of alcohol and imprisonment.

Mentoring, Volunteering and Training   

We adopt a mentoring approach towards our service delivery.  Encouraging our clients to identify personal goals and successfully complete any mandatory or expected engagement in services.

Our clients have continued onto training, benefited from improved family relationships and become better able to manage anger with a more willing approach to making changes in their lives.

Glasgow Council on Alcohol seek to address alcohol related health inequality for LGBT community


In 2018 the Glasgow Council on Alcohol began work on a programme of inclusivity and outreach work aimed at addressing the health inequalities experienced by the LGBT community around drug and alcohol use.

The work began in response to research[1] [2] which described the context of LGBT alcohol use in Scotland and made recommendations for drug and alcohol services on how they could improve their inclusivity.

Harmful drinking and health inequalities

LGBT are more likely to drink and to drink excessively than the general population. Alcohol plays a major role in the social and sexual lives of LGBTI people in Scotland, notably implicated in violence and impaired decision making around sexual risk taking [3].

There are numerous social, cultural and environmental factors (sometimes known as wider determinants of health) influencing higher use of alcohol among LGBTI people, including coping with factors such as marginalisation, discrimination and stigma and escaping from heterosexual social norms [4]. In some ways these issues are compounded by the fact that alcohol plays a central role on the commercial gay scene[5], with Glasgow no exception.

It is no real surprise that rates of harmful alcohol consumption are higher among LGBTI people. Harmful substance misuse and mental ill health tend to go hand in hand. A recent study found that over 50% of people in the UK who drink, do so to cope with stress. The social, environmental and cultural factors mentioned above, are also the driving factors for why LGBT people much more likely to experience poor mental health and to have contemplated or attempted suicide than their heterosexual peers. The health inequalities faced by the LGBT community globally were explored at length in a recent Huffington Post article, which discusses the extent to which LGBT people have faced a variety of traumas which result in signs of PTSD and not only mental, but a range of physical health inequalities – as diverse as heart problems, erectile dysfunction and asthma.

GCA LGBT inclusivity work and partnership working

With drug and alcohol services often seen as ‘intimidating’ or ‘macho’ places that are not welcoming to LGBT people, GCA have embarked on a programme of work to change that.

This began by acknowledging that GCA staff would need to receive training in LGBT issues, but particularly with regard as to how that might impact upon their alcohol consumption. GCA teamed up with the Scottish Drugs Forum, who themselves had developed LGBT training to co-produce a one day training course for their staff. With one course already having run and two scheduled for the summer, a majority of GCA staff will have received this training by the end of July, with the training also having been opened out to other services. Staff from DrinkWise Age Well, Turning Point Scotland and Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs (SFAD) also being trained.

Community research showed that LGBT people felt that drug and alcohol services should be visibly welcoming to LGBT people, so GCA marked LGBT History Month in February by changing their social media and website banners to feature the Pride Flag and a commitment to welcoming LGBT people to our service, also running a highly visible social media campaign in this time. They also added a page to their website with information specific to the LGBT community alongside links to relevant services for LGBT people in the city.

GCA has also sought to actively engage with LGBT people in their community spaces, and have teamed up with both LGBT Youth Scotland and LGBT Health and Wellbeing to deliver a programme of regular alcohol awareness sessions with their various groups over the course of 2019. As well as that, GCA will also be in attendance with a stall at Glasgow’s Mardi Gla Pride celebration on the 20th and 21st of July. As well as delivering alcohol awareness information including highlighting safer drinking guidelines, GCA staff will also carry out Alcohol Brief Interventions and be able to refer people into counselling.

The work has been led by one of GCA’s Community Alcohol Brief Intervention Practitioners, David Barbour, himself a gay man and recovering alcoholic. He said;

“As a gay man who has experienced a range of the common health inequalities felt by our community, including poor mental health, problematic alcohol use and smoking – I was keen to see the Glasgow Council on Alcohol recognise the issues that our community faces and ensure that people are aware that we exist, and that we provide an inclusive welcoming environment.

GCA are contracted to deliver Alcohol Brief Interventions in wider settings, so it is a natural fit that we not only make our service more welcoming, but that we proactively go out and engage with the LGBT community where they are.

I’ve been so encouraged that since we started this work, we’ve either stimulated interest from other addiction services, or learned of ongoing work in these services – all of which hopefully bodes well for an ever increasing focus on the needs of the LGBT community in Glasgow in this area. We look forward to working closely with more and more partners to building more inclusive drug and alcohol services and proactively seeking to support the LGBT community in the city to lead healthier, happier lives.”