1.1 This is a report of an independent review of Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS). The review was commissioned as part of a rolling programme of reviews (carried out every six years) of voluntary sector agencies that receive more than £100k / year in grant funding from the Scottish Government. The review was carried out by Griesbach & Associates (Dawn Griesbach and Audrey Mistry) between October - December 2011.
1.2 The main aim of the review was to assess whether the Scottish Government is receiving value for money in relation to the grant it provides to AFS. In particular, the review was asked to:
- assess AFS's short- and long-term strategic planning processes, and the organisation's performance in, and contribution to, the delivery of the Scottish Government's Framework for Action on alcohol;
- carry out a basic "health check" of AFS's internal procedures in relation to human resources; standing financial instructions and internal / external audit; and
- identify AFS's key strengths, which can be built upon, and propose solutions to any weaknesses which need to be addressed.
Alcohol Focus Scotland
1.3 AFS was established in the early 1970s as the Scottish Council on Alcohol. Its original remit was to support the local Councils on Alcohol throughout Scotland. It did this by providing training to volunteer counsellors and by facilitating the sharing of experience and good practice.
1.4 The organisation's role has grown over the years, and in 2001, following the appointment of Jack Law as Chief Executive, it changed its name to Alcohol Focus Scotland. Upon Mr Law's retirement in 2010, Dr Evelyn Gillan (formerly at the Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems - SHAAP) was appointed as Chief Executive.1 Dr Gillan took up post in May 2010, and following an internal review, a strategic action plan and organisational priorities have been published.
1.5 Further details about Alcohol Focus Scotland are provided in Section 2.
Brief description of methods
1.6 This review explored the work of AFS from a range of perspectives. It involved:
- an extensive documentary review (e.g. an analysis of the contents of reports, annual accounts, policies and procedures, etc.)
- interviews and focus groups with internal stakeholders (i.e. current and former AFS staff, Executive Committee and Advisory Board)
- interviews with external stakeholders (i.e. representatives of selected partner agencies and a sample of Alcohol & Drug Partnerships, local Councils on Alcohol and local licensing forums). A list of these, and an explanation of how these particular agencies were chosen is provided in Appendix 1.
1.7 Altogether, interviews were carried out with 30 individuals, and one focus group was carried out with half of AFS's non-managerial staff (7 people in total). In addition, members of the research team attended a regularly-scheduled meeting of the senior management team and of the Policy Review group.
1.8 The Scottish Government requested a concise review. Therefore, a decision was taken to focus tightly on the five areas of most interest to the Government namely: (i) AFS's contribution to the delivery of the Government's alcohol strategy; (ii) its strategic planning processes; and its internal procedures in relation to (iii) human resources (HR); (iv) standing financial instructions; and (v) quality assurance (that is, internal / external audit). These five areas of scrutiny are addressed in turn in Sections 3-7 of this report.
1.9 In addition, given the significant changes that have taken place in AFS since the appointment of the new Chief Executive, it was agreed that the review should cover the period April 2008 - November 2011, rather than the entire six-year period since AFS's last external review.
1.10 In order to explore AFS's performance, a set of quality indicators were devised. These incorporated the Scottish Government's revised guidance for assessing Best Value in public services.2 Thus, in reviewing the five areas of scrutiny, evidence was sought in relation to:
- Vision and leadership
- Effective partnerships
- Governance and accountability
- Use of resources
- Performance management.
1.11 Moreover, the review also explored the extent to which the issues of Equality and Sustainability (as cross-cutting issues) have informed AFS's approach to planning its activities.
Email: Iain MacAllister
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