By Andrew Kennedy, Communications Manager, Big Lottery Fund



Innovative plans to tackle alcohol misuse in Northern Ireland have received a major boost from the Big Lottery Fund today.

We have awarded grants totalling nearly £7 million to projects working with the five Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland to tackle the range of issues that result from alcohol misuse.

The funding has been awarded through our Impact of Alcohol programme which aims to reduce the harm caused to people, families and communities in Northern Ireland directly affected by alcohol misuse. The Big Lottery Fund made the funding available to the five Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Trusts to identify voluntary and community led projects in their areas.

Projects awarded funding across the five Health and Social Care Trusts include a service to improve the lives of older people who are chronic drinkers, an initiative to support women whose lives have been affected by alcohol related domestic violence and a scheme working with the family members of people dealing with an addiction.

In the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, funding totalling over £1.48 million has been awarded to four projects. FASA will use £519,630 to create a new drop-in centre for young people and their families in Belfast’s Shaftesbury Square.

The centre will offer a range of support services for young people displaying harmful patterns of drinking including one-to-one support, counselling and group work.

“There is a lack of centralised services for young people and their families in the Belfast area. Our centre will be a one-stop-shop, making it easier for young people and their families to access the specialist support services they need,” said Jim Weir, Head of Department for Children and Young People.

Jim Creighton, 27, from north Belfast, got involved with FASA in his early 20’s because he was dealing with drug and alcohol misuse. “I had a cannabis addiction and to get myself off that I turned to alcohol,” he said. “There have been times when I’ve gone out on a binge and drunk from a Thursday right through the whole weekend. I started going to a FASA group where I mixed with other young people and we would chat about our issues. They get me out doing activities and that’s made such a difference to my life.”

In the Western Health and Social Care Trust funding totalling over £1.18 million has been awarded to seven projects. ARC Healthy Living Centre in Irvinestown is using a grant of £177,750 to improve the lives of older people who are chronic drinkers and their families.

Support workers will visit older people in their homes in the Fermanagh and Omagh areas, offering them counselling and education programmes to give them an understanding of their alcohol misuse and help them to tackle their addiction.

“There is a lack of services around alcohol misuse in the west, with many older people who are hard to reach. They are vulnerable and isolated and in rural areas access to services is restricted,” said project manager Mannix Magee. “Having someone coming to them makes it easier for them to access the services they so vitally need to help improve their lives.”

Steven (name changed), 58, from Fermanagh, came to the Solace project after years of alcohol misuse. “I started drinking at 16 and by my 20s I was an alcoholic,” he said. “My family disowned me and I ended up homeless. I floated around for a number of years and came to Fermanagh in my 40s. By that stage I was a wreck and I had no confidence and was dealing with paranoia. I was invited to Solace and it just changed my attitude to life. If it wasn’t for this project I would probably be dead.”

Frank Hewitt, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair, said: “We are supporting grass roots or community based projects that will play a key role in tackling alcohol misuse in Northern Ireland. “By working with the Health and Social Care Trusts we are building on existing experience and expertise in this area and using this funding to tackle the range of issues that have resulted from alcohol misuse including health difficulties, post and pre-natal harm, violence, family issues and debt.”

Check out the coverage on the BBC NI website:


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