As Dry January gets underway, special training is helping Kent’s frontline staff to identify and support people who may have an alcohol dependency.
The sessions for professional workers, including probation officers, job centre staff, careers advisors and social workers, are just one of the many support services available from Kent County Council-commissioned drugs and alcohol charity ‘change, grow, live’ (CGL).
Felicity Rudman, West Kent Housing Association Tenancy Support Officer, explained why she took part in the training: “We go into all sorts of issues in our jobs, from rent arrears to property neglect, and some of the times alcohol does play a part. After doing the training, I can now look back and I know I’ve experienced this with a few cases. It helps to be able to relate to the things that people are dealing with as well as knowing there’s somewhere we can refer them to for specialist help so it can be nipped in the bud before it gets to the point that we can’t deal with it.”
In Kent, it is believed that more than 327,000 people are drinking at dangerous levels. Kent hospitals treat approximately 20,000 cases* of alcohol related illness and injury a year while there is also a huge impact on emergency and health services due to accidents on the road, in the workplace and the home. Alcohol-related issues cost the NHS in Kent an estimated £108million a year.
Also taking part in CGL training sessions was Lak Khaira, a KCC Senior Early Help and Preventative Services Worker based in Gravesham. He said: “I started out as a youth worker but now we are Early Help, I am helping more and more families. We have a very diverse community so I’m finding that their knowledge of where to go for help if they have an issue is limited so I came to the training as I wanted to increase my knowledge too so I can offer some brief advice as well as signposting them to further support services such as CGL.”
KCC Director for Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark said: “Although the vast majority of people in Kent enjoy drinking alcohol sensibly and within recommended guidelines, there are many who still do not realise or are under-estimating how much they drink and the impact it has on themselves, their family and the wider community. Training like this is another excellent way of helping people to identify how much alcohol is affecting them and to find potentially life-saving support before it is too late.”
KCC Public Health commissions two providers – CGL in west Kent and Forward Trust in east Kent – to inform the public about the potential consequences of misusing alcohol and to provide treatment options to help individuals make healthy, informed decisions about their lives.
Claire Begent, Service Manager at the West Kent Drug and Alcohol Wellbeing Service CGL said: “The dawn of the New Year is an opportunity for people to make positive changes to their lifestyles, improve their general wellbeing, and more appropriately manage their use of alcohol. We are working with our partners to ensure people get the support they need and that local non-judgemental advice is available to help people decide the most effective and sustainable approach for them. For some, this might involve taking part in Dry January. For others, particularly those who use alcohol most days, a more gradual reduction in usage is recommended before stopping completely.”
Meanwhile, as people sign up to the national event Dry January, KCC is reminding residents of ‘Know Your Score’ – a simple quiz which aims to raise awareness of the dangerous levels which people are drinking at and warn of the increased risk of many illnesses and conditions. The quiz is also available on Facebook. Go to www.kent.gov.uk/knowyourscore for more information.
Keith from Ashford, a former client of the East Kent Community Drug and Alcohol Service, said: “I came to the service in March 2015. I’d been drinking for over 30 years and I wasn’t in a good place. The team were great – I got the help I needed to make a new life for myself without alcohol, starting with a clinical detox with support from a doctor. I’ve been completely free from alcohol for over two years now”
He continues: “After I completed my treatment, I went on to become a Peer Mentor, supporting other clients who were going through the service. I’m really enjoying the opportunity to work with clients – as someone who has been through the service I know first-hand how hard – but also how rewarding – it can be. My life is so different now, I have a great job with supportive colleagues, my health is good and I have a fantastic support network of friends and family who really care about me.”
Mike Trace, CEO of The Forward Trust, the charity which runs the East Kent Community Drug and Alcohol Service, said: “We know from experience that issues with alcohol can have a significant impact on people from all walks of life, as well as their families, particularly during and directly after the festive season. That’s why our East Kent Drug and Alcohol Service hubs are running a series of informal coffee mornings throughout January for people who are worried about the amount of alcohol they drink. People can drop in without an appointment and talk in confidence to a member of our team about their concerns.
“Forward supports people throughout East Kent who have issues with drugs and alcohol, no matter what those issues are. If you need help, do get in touch or drop into any of our five Hubs.” Location details can be found at www.eastkentdrugandalcohol.org.uk.
For more information on the treatment, support and recovery services available across Kent, go to www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health/alcohol-and-drug-support
Note to editors:
*Cases relates to the number of alcohol-related episodes rather than people ie when a person is admitted for hospital care they can have several episodes of care during one hospital spell.
Data source: Local Alcohol Profiles for England. Public Health England (http://www.lape.org.uk/data.html)
The Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines recommend that to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level, it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. If you regularly drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread your drinking evenly over three or more days. If you have one or two heavy drinking episodes a week, you increase your risk of death from long-term illness and injuries.
There is also the reminder that one pint of strong beer or cider equals three units, as does a large glass (250ml) of wine. A small glass of wine (175ml) amounts to two units while a bottle of beer can mean 1.5 units but these can all vary depending on the alcoholic strength of the drink.