External Review of Alcohol Focus Scotland

The review was part of a rolling programme of reviews of voluntary sector agencies that receive more than £100k / year in grant funding from the Scottish Government. The main aim was to assess whether the Scottish Government is receiving value for money in relation to the grant it provides to AFS.

9 Conclusions

9.1 The main aim of this review was to assess the extent to which AFS is providing value for money in relation to the grant funding it receives from the Scottish Government. On the basis of the organisation's current direction of travel, all indications are that it is providing good value for money.

9.2 Following the appointment of a new Chief Executive in May 2010, AFS has undertaken a comprehensive internal review of all areas of its work. To some extent, that review is still going on. However, the process to-date has identified a number of short-comings, and the organisation has clearly worked very hard to address these. Major improvements have been made in relation to strategic planning, HR, finance and quality assurance activities.

9.3 AFS now has in place a set of coherent logic models for each of its areas of work, and is in the process of developing a monitoring and evaluation framework. It should be noted that although much of this work has been done in the past 18 months, AFS is in fact ahead of many other voluntary sector agencies in its use of logic modeling.

9.4 It would seem that AFS's stakeholders have a largely positive perception of the organisation. There is a need for AFS to clarify whether it sees the local Councils on Alcohol as a stakeholder group (as stated in its Strategic Direction document), or indeed alcohol service providers more generally. There is also a need for AFS to cultivate its relationship with Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs) by, for example, improving face-to-face communications and involving them in future planning activities. It is recognised, however, that there may also be a need for ADPs to take more initiative in improving their engagement with organisations like AFS.

9.5 AFS has tackled its deficit in a robust manner, but the result of this is that the organisation is currently working at capacity. Any expansion of the AFS's work programme will require additional resources. Several areas were highlighted as needing resources if AFS is to be able to deliver on its objectives. These were in the areas of research, policy and advocacy; alcohol marketing to young people; third-party harm / harm to others; and finance and HR. AFS should continue to explore income-generating opportunities that are consistent with its strategic direction.

9.6 The Scottish Government took bold and decisive action in introducing a smoking ban in Scotland in 2006. It is now taking unprecedented steps to address Scotland's problems with alcohol. AFS is a key and valued partner in this process and the Scottish Government has benefited from AFS's independence and evidence-based focus. However, unlike the smoking message, the alcohol message is far more complex. This fact alone is an important reason for the Scottish Government to continue to invest funding in AFS. AFS plays an important role not only in gathering evidence, but in translating the complexity of that evidence into straight-forward messages that policy- and decision-makers can understand and act upon.


Email: Iain MacAllister

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