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The below history has kindly been provided by Helen Owen, the founding CEO of Doncaster Alcohol Services, in post for 35 years!

Doncaster Alcohol Services was formed in 1982, following the formation of a Committee of local professionals drawn from health and social services, which successfully applied for Section 64 funding. Government had made this source of funding available to local voluntary organisations to bid for, and it is noteworthy that this represented government specifically targeting funding on voluntary organisations. 

At that time called the Doncaster Council on Alcoholism, the first task was to recruit a team of volunteers to train as counsellors. This group completed their training in 1983, and, premises having been obtained in Copley Road, the Alcohol Counselling Service started seeing clients shortly after. For several years this was the sole service operating. The budget in those days was around £25,000 per annum, which covered staff costs, overheads and the counselling training course.

Over the years DAS has trained and supported more than 100 volunteer counsellors. Many of these now work in the alcohol field or other related occupations. Some have gone on to more senior posts in their own fields, so DAS has contributed to the overall awareness of alcohol problems of professionals in Doncaster and elsewhere.

In 1986 the local health authority had properties that they owned in Fulwood Drive, and DAS was approached informally to see if they would be interested in renting one of these houses for clients who needed more support to maintain abstinence. The health authority provided support to furnish the property, and over the years further properties were obtained, which eventually provided twelve bedspaces, with follow on support when residents gained their own tenancies.

While residents of the two houses were offered support from the Project Worker, and had their own counselling appointments, they needed more to occupy their days. Residents were calling in to the offices during the day for informal support. We decided to use the training room to provide a social area for clients on two days a week, and this provided the basis for what would become our day service. Lottery Funding obtained in 2007 enabled the service to operate on five days a week, with a variety of activities to support clients in their recovery.

These three areas of service provided a solid basis of complementary ways to meet the needs of the clients contacting the organisation.

Over the following years, DAS obtained project funding that enabled the following to be provided:

  • Probation funding to provide services specifically to those whose offending related to their alcohol use.
  • Probation funding to work with perpetrators of domestic violence
  • Alcohol Education groups in Lindholme prison
  • A counselling service located in Lindholme and Moorlands prisons
  • Outreach workers to support GPs to provide Brief Interventions to patients drinking above recommended alcohol limits
  • Provision of diversionary activities for young people drinking in public areas of Doncaster
  • Support to youth workers on alcohol issues, as part of preventing teenage pregnancies
  • Training to increase employability of clients
  • An outreach service in Stainforth
  • An Alcohol Diversion Scheme for people arrested for alcohol related offences in Doncaster
  • Training courses for professionals in Doncaster, including extended placements for nursing students, social work students, and regular 3-day courses for Social Workers, Probation staff and others; short courses available to Police Community Safety Officers, Fire Officers and others.
  • Support for Change, providing support for family members of those with alcohol and drug related problems

The majority of these projects were funded for a fixed term, and either transferred to other sources at the end of that term, or the project ended.

Throughout this period we have consistently worked with clients to ensure their views about the service are incorporated into service development and improvement, and regular meetings ensure their voice is included.

As funding sources became more straightened, and commissioners were under pressure of reduced budgets, the costs of operating a service for people with alcohol problems separate from those with drugs problems meant that the health Commissioners decided that these services should be jointly provided, and that DAS should move in with the Drugs service provided by RDaSH in Thorne Road. This was a move that presented considerable challenges, and staff and clients were initially wary about whether this would or could work. However, the Thorne Road premises were adapted to transfer the Options project there, and staff and clients made the move in January 2013. Everyone involved work hard to make this joint service a success, and to ensure that the needs of clients continued to be met in this new setting.

In 2018 a new CEO came into post, with a new vision and new direction for the organisation. Our role within the mainstream integrated service came to an end on 31st November 2018 and you can check out our "Who we are" page to find out more about what we do now!