Fife Alcohol Support Service has helped 23,000 Fifers

Here to help...the FASS team is based in Tolbooth Streeet, Kirkcaldy. From left to right: Jim Bett, service manager, Dave Dempster, substance misuse manager, Helen Hutton, alcohol counselling co-ordinator and Donald Grieve, Curnie Clubs manager.
Here to help...the FASS team is based in Tolbooth Streeet, Kirkcaldy. From left to right: Jim Bett, service manager, Dave Dempster, substance misuse manager, Helen Hutton, alcohol counselling co-ordinator and Donald Grieve, Curnie Clubs manager.

For 40 years, Fife Alcohol Support Service has been on hand to help people overcome issues with alcohol.

In that time, the service has supported 23,000 Fifers who have sought help.

And while there is anecdotal evidence that youngsters now have a more sensible attitude to drinking, it continues to see around 800 clients each year.

Service manager Jim Bett has worked with FASS for 23 years and knows how much it is still needed locally.

So as the organisation celebrates its 40th year in 2018, we spoke to Jim about its history and the future.

FASS was first known as the Fife Council on Alcohol, one of a network of 30 across the country overseen by the Scottish Council on Alochol, now Alcohol Focus Scotland.

It saw a number of name changes over the years but has been known as Fife Alcohol Support Service for the last 15 years.

Three years ago, Fife Community Drug Service also merged with FASS so it now helps vulnerable people who are affected by both alcohol-related and substance misuse problems.

In addition, it runs Curnie Clubs to help adults who are socially isolated.

Services are funded by Fife Council and NHS Fife with the Big Lottery Fund paying for the Curnie Clubs.

But FASS is also a charity which is run by a board of trustees.

And it receives support from the public, mainly in the form of counsellors which FASS trains.

In the last 40 years, 200 volunteer counsellors have supported the alcohol service and even more are now needed.

Jim said: “We have a mix of 12 paid counsellors and a team of 15 volunteers.

“Volunteers are our bedrock; their value to our service is immeasurable.

“We’re always looking for new volunteer alcohol counsellors and would be delighted to hear from anyone who is interseted.”

Full training is provided to successful applicants. To find out more, call Helen Hutton on 01592 206200.

Over the decades, the number of people seeking FASS’ help has fluctuated but in the last ten years the figure has stabilised at around 800 each year.

The vast majority of them self refer to the service, while others are referred by GPs, social workers or Adapt Recovery Support.

While FASS helps all adults aged 16 and over, the largest number of people now seeking help are in the 30 to 50 age bracket.

Jim said: “In terms of what we see, the risks around heavy drinking have not yet been grasped by the population.

“Unfortunately, alcohol is still seen as fairly benign and social; it’s often seen as a reward for success or a treat after a hard day.

“So it’s a quiet addicition which slowly creeps up on people and the health problems that develop because of it are not noticed until they really start to take a grip.

“We are not anti-alcohol – we promote a sensible drinking message.

“We are here for people who are worried about their drinking habits and their families and friends.

“The vast majority of people self-refer.

“We’ve always helped a range of ages but the majority of people we see are in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

“They often reach out to us because of other problems which their drinking has caused, be that their health, relationships or work.

“Each person is unique and their journey to a more stable, happier life is also personal to them.

“We support and help them but it has to come from the person – they are the one in control of changing their own behaviour.

“The prognosis for people who are willing to make those changes is very good.

“It’s not insurmountable and a great many people who seek our help do overcome their problems.”

As for the future, Jim believes the Scottish Government’s new pricing policy will help – but it may take many years.

He explained: “The need is sill there for the service. The problems have not been solved so we can’t give up yet.

“People who come to us are at a stage in their drinking journey where price is not a factor.

“But in future it may stop people getting into trouble in the first place.

“There are also signs that younger people are taking a more sensible attitude to alcohol. I’m hoping it’s not just a generational thing – we’ll have to wait and see.”

In the meantime, FASS will continue to be there for people in Fife who struggle. To find out more, call the FASS team on 01592 206200.

Support is on the doorstep

Fife Alcohol Support Service is a leading provider of counselling and psychotherapy for people in Fife with alcohol-related problems.

It helps people deal with addiction, excessive regular drinking and binge drinking.

It also has extensive self-help resources for anyone looking to cut down or stop because of worries they may be drinking too much.

Most people seeking help with their drinking either refer themselves or come via their GP. However, the service isn’t just for drinkers; it also helps partners and other family members. FASS Alcohol Counselling is provided in many health centres, surgeries and community locations in Fife.

In 2015, Fife Community Drug Service (FCDS) also merged with FASS. The Community Drug Service provides advice and assertive outreach support for individuals, families and their carers. It offers specialist help for opiate and recreational drug use, including benzodiazepines, cocaine and amphetamines. It also helps people misusing prescribed medications.

ADAPT Recovery Support is the main drug and alcohol triage service in Fife. It is available by telephone and at drop-in clinics. ADAPT provides assessment of need and referral to specialist drug and alcohol services within the NHS and third sector.

A key feature of ADAPT is the ongoing outreach and counselling support it provides for vulnerable people who might otherwise drift away from services.

FASS also runs Curnie Clubs which help people suffering from social isolation find their way back into community life. Club members benefit from therapeutic group work.

To find out more, visit www.fassaction.org.uk.