Glasgow Council on Alcohol

About GCA

A Short History of Glasgow Council on Alcohol

Glasgow Council on Alcohol (GCA), or the Glasgow Council on Alcoholism as it was originally known, was established in 1965. It was the first council of its kind in the UK and is the longest continuously operating. After some years similar councils were founded in Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh and GCA became the inspiration for a network of Local Councils on Alcohol (LCAs) to be formed across Scotland. Today there are 32 Councils on Alcohol located throughout the length and breadth of Scotland.

For the first ten years every newcomer to GCA was counselled personally by the Director. After a few months they were passed on to groups of fellow ‘recovering drinkers’ run on the same lines as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous).  The Group Leaders had to be a minimum of 3 months sober. The organisation was entirely volunteer based with funding largely derived from individual donations and contributions with a very small contribution from Glasgow Corporation.

From the mid-1970s GCA experienced a gradual transformation in two areas.

Iain Brown, a psychologist engaged by the Scottish Council on Alcohol (SCA) led the training in one-to-one counselling and for the first time the concept of ‘controlled drinking’ was introduced as an option alongside that of total abstinence. A national training scheme was developed to provide a consistent standard of training for volunteer counsellors in GCA and in all Councils on Alcohol in Scotland.

In the early 1980s volunteers performed all the counselling and much of the funding was still by individual contributions and donations. In the mid-1980s GCA became a company limited by guarantee and recognised as a charity, and there were fifty three voluntary counsellors deployed over several sites in the city.  Throughout the 1980s GCA steadily expanded its work-force of fully trained volunteer counsellors and the service began to diversify.

GCA developed a number of new services in different areas, including:

  • Counselling services within Barlinnie prison
  • A community based drug advice and counselling service in Ruchill
  • A project in Easterhouse which later became the Greater Easterhouse Alcohol Awareness Project (GEAAP) providing alcohol counselling, advice and information as well as prevention and education work
  • A Hostels Project providing advice, information and counselling work in the hostels for people who are homeless
  • Counselling services in several GP surgeries

During this period the profile of alcohol was much less than it is currently, with the focus of government attention being on illicit drugs. Alcohol was and still is regarded as an acceptable drug which is very much part of our culture.

All through the 1990′s the core counselling service expanded and significant steps were taken to ensure consistent quality. A full time practice supervisor was employed to raise the level of professionalism among counsellors. In tandem with this GCA took the decision to train all its volunteers to the Confederation of Scottish Counselling Agencies (COSCA) standards with the addition of a specialist course on Alcohol and Addictions (also now validated by COSCA).

GCA employed counselling staff to deliver services alongside the volunteers.

In the late 1990′s due to funding constraints, GCA experienced a steady decrease in funding and several projects came to an end or developed into something new. For example:

  • The Barlinnie Addiction Project was taken over by the prison services
  • The Hostels Project evolved into a homelessness team

In the first years of the new millennium, the national problems of alcohol misuse gained more recognition. This brought new sources of funding and GCA developed its ability to expand and diversify its activities.

GCA both augments and adds value to the range of addiction services within Glasgow and it looks forward to continuing to provide services for at least another 45 years to reduce alcohol problems in every section of the community of Greater Glasgow.