Over the past five years, the Big Lottery Fund Impact of Alcohol Programme has funded projects in 31 different organisations in Northern Ireland. Alcohol misuse is a problem for many communities in Northern Ireland, and projects aim to reduce the harm that alcohol causes to children and families. Projects address a range of issues related to alcohol misuse, such as physical and mental health problems, accidents and violence, debt and poverty, family issues and pre- and post-natal harm.
Together with the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) we have been supporting organisations as their projects have developed. Our work has involved organising networking activities for the groups involved, capturing learning from their experience, organising learning seminars, and supporting them with self-evaluation.
To coincide with the close of the Programme we held a conference to mark the contribution of projects and to consider how learning from the programme could inform policy, commissioning and practice. A number of common themes emerged, including the need to invest upstream in education and prevention, to involve all stakeholders including those in housing, education, justice and the wider community and to focus on interventions which will bring about long term change. The importance of robust evidence and evaluation was also highlighted.
Over eighty delegates from the statutory, community and voluntary sectors attended. Presentations featured contributions from the Chief Medical Office in Northern Ireland, Alcohol Focus Scotland, the Northern Irish Alliance for Drugs and Alcohol and the Big Lottery Fund.
Findings from the conference will be compiled into a report which aims to inform future decision-making in relation to alcohol-related policy, commissioning and practice.