Fife Alcohol Support Service (FASS) was established in 1977 to provide a community-based, alcohol counselling service for individuals, family and friends affected by alcohol problems.

FASS was originally a council on alcohol, one of 30 or so similar organisations that spanned Scotland, each with a mission to address the health and social consequences of excessive alcohol use. The original councils on alcohol were founded during the sixties in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee.

In the early seventies the Scottish Council on Alcohol (now Alcohol Focus Scotland) became an umbrella and support organisation that aided the establishment of a Scotland wide network of local councils on alcohol, such as FASS in 1977. The Scottish Council on Alcohol provided organisational business support, counsellor training and standards accreditation for volunteer alcohol counsellors throughout Scotland.

Only service

FASS established an alcohol counselling service of quality in its early years. Working often in liaison with psychology services, it was for much of its existence, the only service available outside of Alcoholics Anonymous that catered for the needs of vulnerable adults suffering the effects of alcohol misuse and addiction. The charity offered an opportunity for volunteer counsellors to make a meaningful contribution to the welfare of the community. Many people did so, and some went on to become leading figures in alcohol and drug service delivery in Fife and beyond.

Alcohol Counselling in Primary Care

In 1995, FASS with the support of NHS Fife introduced its alcohol counselling service into primary care. The charity was one of the very first services to do so. The event marked the beginning of considerable growth for the counselling service as it responded to awareness of the extent and damage of alcohol related-problems and the community’s need for a reliable source of help.

Other new projects emerged during the 2000s, including an innovative National Lottery funded Drug and Alcohol Befriending Service that addressed the extreme social isolation suffered by many people using alcohol and drugs.

Major partnership

A major partnership with Third Sector and NHS Services produced the National Lottery New Opportunities funded All Round Care Healthy Living Centre that operated in West Fife for many years. This service addressed high levels of mental health issues and use of medications through a holistic programme of support that included psychological services, alcohol counselling, family support, dietary advice and sexual abuse services.

FASS also contributed to the introduction of a NHS Home Detox service for alcohol users seeking abstinence and a men’s health pilot. Both were eventually mainstreamed by the NHS.

Professional Standards

From late 2006 onwards, the charity responded to the growing ‘professionalism’ of the counselling vocation with a major development programme for our counsellors, practice supervisors, and the organisational structure that supports their work. FASS became an organisational member of COSCA (Counselling and Psychotherapy in Scotland) and there was a move from the ‘vocational’ based counsellor training delivered by Alcohol Focus Scotland to academic education. The post-graduate Counselling Diploma qualification was seen as the desired standard for counsellors. In 2013, FASS helped establish the Scottish Addictions Consortium (SAC), an organisation concerned with the training and accreditation of alcohol and addictions counsellors.

During this period and thereafter, the Scottish Government’s recognition of the damage caused by over use of alcohol in our society and the subsequent demand on services including health, ambulance, police and social work, changed the landscape. Increased grant funding, creation of Drug & Alcohol Action Teams (DAAT) followed by Alcohol & Drug Partnerships (ADP) led to a diverse range of substance misuse services delivering both alcohol and drug interventions across key areas of Early Intervention and Prevention; Treatment; and Rehabilitation and Recovery

Training for GPs

In 2008, FASS developed Alcohol Brief Intervention training programmes for GPs and other Primary Care staff in Dunfermline and West Fife. That experience enabled several of the agency’s counselling staff to become NHS Health Scotland Trainers. As Brief Intervention delivery became national policy, they assisted NHS Health Promotion to train frontline workers throughout medical and social services and the third sector in Fife.

In 2009, this experience led to a partnership with Police Scotland Fife Division (Fife Constabulary as was) to introduce a Brief Intervention based Alcohol Diversion Scheme. This project addressed alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour. It was later incorporated into the ADP funded ADAPT project.

Partners and new directions

In 2011 FASS and Fife Community Drug Service (FCDS) became partners to deliver the ADAPT Substance Recovery project. Funded by Fife Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP), the ADAPT project provided a range of supportive help for people in need including access to services through Recovery Clinics, structured Alcohol/Drug Counselling and Diversion from Prosecution services.

In 2015, following a formal approach from the FCDS Board of Trustees to the FASS Management Committee, Fife Community Drug Service merged with FASS. In working together we identified many benefits and opportunities. It was clear that this merger could create an organisation with the scope to serve the needs of an increased range of client populations. Furthermore, we could do so with greater organisational efficiency and with capacity to develop innovative new services.

In 2016, FASS introduced Curnie Clubs. Funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund, this support service helps people who have become socially isolated as a result of living with a range of challenging issues.

John Balfour

John Balfour (1919 - 2009) was instrumental in establishing FASS. The new charity, a Local Council on Alcohol for Fife, offered its ground breaking counselling service throughout the Kingdom.

Earlier, in 1973 he had joined the newly formed Scottish Council on Alcohol, for which he served as office bearer for many years. This organisation worked to establish a large network of Local Councils serving Scotland. It is known today as Alcohol Focus Scotland.

John Balfour’s involvement with FASS continued until his passing in May 2009. He served as Chairman for 25 years until retirement in 2002, and then became Honorary President of the charity.

Staff and volunteers who knew him would testify to his great dignity and humanity, and to his maxim of always doing the ‘right thing’ especially when times are difficult. The agency endeavours to follow the principles of its founding father.

You can read John Balfour's obituary here. The obituary was published by The Scotsman on June 5, 2009.