The Chair invited Ms Cregan, to make her presentation on the Drink Wise,
Age Well Programme to the committee.
Ms Cregan proceeded with her presentation, highlighting the following:
· Evolving Problems such as; chaotic lifestyles and drug use, alcohol related harm in over 50s, limited access to psycho-social support and need for intensive support programmes
· The Drink Wise, Age Well Campaign began in 2015 to tackle alcohol related harm in people aged 50 and over as it had become a worrying issue throughout the area
· Programme is part of a wider consortium and also delivered in England, Scotland and Wales
· The campaign have taken a whole society approach with direct engagement and support, training and awareness raising of over 50’s issues and prevention and campaigning
· Reported that alcohol misuse among over 50s costs the Northern Ireland Health Service £125m
· People had reported that alcohol use was affecting their wellbeing, most commonly; health, mood, relationships, finances and sleep
· Three common triggers for increased drinking were; bereavement, loss of sense or purpose, relationship problems
· Assessments had shown that 68 percent of people said they most commonly drank alone at home and 39 was the average age people said they had first experienced problems with their drinking
· The Drink Wise, Age Well Programme delivers workshops and awareness sessions in the community to help people better understand alcohol and aging.
The Chair thanked Ms Cregan for her presentation and invited comments from Members.
Councillor Mellon thanked Ms Cregan for the presentation and described it as refreshing to see a wrap-around approach to such a societal issue. She referred to the common triggers for increased drinking and stated that she had attended a recent meeting with social services who were trying to tackle that specific older age group who had lost a sense of purpose which in particular, is challenging in itself and commended the organisation for tackling this issue. She enquired if there was any timeframe or limitation in place regarding working with participants in the programme.
In response, Ms Cregan stated that they were fortunate that there were currently no timeframes in place. She stated that the programme was to not a test and learn project which permitted some freedom to work with people as required. She further stated that four or six sessions was insufficient particularly whilst attempting to build a therapeutic relationship with an individual who would be expected to make long term lifestyle changes.
Councillor Reilly referred to the success in the reduced number of days drinking by participants in the programme and enquired if those participants were asked if there was additional work carried out to test if drinking had reduced overall as opposed to the number of days that alcohol was consumed. He then enquired if there was a mixture of geographical backgrounds of people taking part in the programme. He stated people living in rural areas were more likely to experience bereavement, loss of sense of purpose etc. however, isolation would be a major issue.
In response, Ms Cregan stated that participants were encouraged to reduce their alcohol intake of 21 units of alcohol in one drinking session by two thirds which was in line with the recommended amount of alcohol intake. She further stated that the programme offered one-to-one support within people’s homes, particularly in rural areas, to break down barriers such as access to transport, and ensure that as many people as possible have access to the service. She stated that whilst there were issues regarding isolation for people living in rural areas, people living in urban areas were experiencing isolation due to factors such as loss of connections within their communities.
Alderman Devenney thanked Ms Cregan for her presentation which highlighted such a serious issue. He noted the amount required treating alcohol misuse in over 50s was £150m which he described as alarming did not include drugs and alcohol misuse from other age groups throughout the province. He enquired what the process was to be referred onto the programme.
In response, Ms Cregan advised that the majority of people self- referred to the programme, however they could also be referred through their GP or another professional body. She stated that the project was advertised through local newspapers and radio as the targeted age group used those particular media outlets frequently.
The Chair thanked Ms Cregan for her informative presentation.