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.

2 About Alcohol Focus Scotland

2.1 AFS is a national non-governmental alcohol agency that works in partnership with the Scottish Government and with other agencies in the voluntary and statutory sectors. AFS's stated aim is "to reduce the harm caused by alcohol". The organisation was described by its external stakeholders as "the Scottish voice on alcohol."

2.2 As mentioned in the previous section, AFS has been operating for four decades, and during that time, the organisation has developed considerably from its original role of supporting local Councils on Alcohol. AFS is considered to be the national alcohol agency in Scotland.

2.3 AFS is a registered Scottish charity and a company limited by guarantee. It receives core funding from the Scottish Government, and additional funding from a wide range of sources, including grant funding from trusts, earned income from the delivery of training or consultancy activities, and donations from individuals. Previously AFS received small amounts of funding from the alcohol industry. Since 2010, its policy is to no longer accept funding from this source. The proportion of funding AFS has received from different sources has varied considerably in the past three years, as will be seen in Section 6. In 2010-11, the core grant from the Scottish Government comprised 43% of AFS's income.

2.4 AFS employs 20 people, six of whom have senior management responsibility. The appointment of a new Chief Executive in May 2010 and an internal review have led to a clarification, or refocusing, of the organisation's core functions and priorities, and a greater focus on delivering outcomes. To some extent, the internal review process was still ongoing at the time of this external review. In particular, AFS's training function, which comprises a substantial component of the organisation's work, was being reviewed. More will be said about this in Section 4.

2.5 AFS is governed by an Executive Committee, and at the time of this review, the Executive Committee comprised 10 members. At the organisation's AGM in November 2011, a new Chair of the Executive Committee was appointed when the previous post-holder stepped down after six years of service.

Core functions and strategic priorities

2.6 AFS's core functions are:

  • Policy, research and advocacy
  • Training and development
  • Communication and information dissemination.

2.7 The organisation undertook activities related to all of these functions prior to the internal review in 2010. However, the internal review resulted in a clearer, more explicit articulation of AFS's functions.

2.8 AFS currently has a two-year plan (2011 - 2013), and five strategic priorities for this period have been identified. These are:

  • Affordability and availability: includes gathering evidence to inform a range of measures to reduce alcohol-related harm within the whole population; advocacy and awareness-raising campaigns targeted at MSPs, policy-makers, practioners and the general public; and participation in UK and international public health alliances.
  • Public health and licensing: includes the collection of information on good practice by licensing boards and forums in implementing the public health objective in local licensing decision-making; providing guidance to licensing boards and forums; and delivering ServeWise training which focuses on licensing standards and includes specialist courses for personal licence holders, licensed trade staff, Licensing Standards Officers and Licensing Board members.
  • Third-party damage / Harm to others: including carrying out a survey of young people to gather information about how adults' and family members' drinking has affected their lives; co-ordination of the SNAPY project (Scottish Network of Alcohol Practitioners for the Young); developing training and resources to help nursery workers and teachers to support children and young people affected by alcohol.
  • Protecting young people from alcohol marketing: including activities aimed at reducing the exposure of young people to alcohol marketing. This is a new area of work for AFS.
  • Supporting frontline services: including the delivery of specialist alcohol training; working with Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs); and the development and support of community projects to reduce alcohol-related harm at a local level.


Email: Iain MacAllister

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