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