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Empowering Communities

Our mission at Drug and Alcohol Action Programme is to empower communities against addiction. We believe that every individual should be treated with dignity and respect and that individuals have rights as well as responsibilities.

The communities we live in are diverse and therefore we promote diverse solutions for diverse needs. This provides quite a challenge as we work with different providers and communities all presenting different addiction issues. Our community cohesion work between different communities challenges prejudice and discrimination as well as separateness which can often masquerade as autonomy. We believe that community cohesion is essential in empowering the communities to deal with the issue of increasing drug use and to tackle myths as well as to deal with inter­community strife.

Our project in West London , the Ealing Drug education project, builds the capacity of different language and cultural communities to address specific addiction and the wider related issues of crime and diversity within communities. We currently work in a focussed way with African, Caribbean , Somali and the South Asian communities. The recent demographic changes in the population of Baling will ensure that we work in a focussed way with European communities that have settled in the area.

Issues include alcohol misuse, drug and Khat addiction as well as family conflict, inter-community strife, crime, domestic and sexual violence, homelessness, mental health as well as immigration and trauma. We provide direct info rmation and education as well as training people from different communities to disseminate awareness and knowledge. We act as a mediator between those affected by addiction issues and those who deliver services. A lot of our work with individuals is through talk therapy where we help people to determine the solutions to their problems.

Talk therapy provides an interactive session between those seeking and those able to sign post or offer help. It removes the straight jacket of some types of counselling that are on offer. It also allows greater flexibility in working in different languages and cultural settings.

Very often we will be approached by an individual about an addiction problem that exists in their family. We will build on this approach and will provide support to all those concerned so that issues of relationship and trust can also be addressed. Unlike other organisations, we will not insist that the person with the addiction present him/her self alone. We recognise the courage it takes someone to walk in through an agency's door to seek help. Also in some cultures, it is the norm that a parent, carer, elder or friend will bring someone in order that they will recognise that they have a problem. In working with families, young people and local organisations, we work within boundaries of confidentiality and risk management. We support users and carers to access relevant services - which are few and far between.

We challenge a key myth that exists in many migrant communities - that 'it doesn't happen to us'. Accordingly the educational resources that we use in different languages are aptly titled, 'It couldn't happen to us'. (1)

Yet, despite this myth, addiction to alcohol and drugs is on the increase amongst first, second and third generation migrant communities which is reflected in the communities in Ealing.

We have seen an increase in drug misuse amongst young people from the South Asian and Somali communities and an increase in alcohol use amongst older men from the

South-Asian and Somali backgrounds. Women are proportionately represented in this increase both in alcohol and drug use. They are also disproportionately affected by domestic and sexual violence linked to addiction of their spouses or partners. Yet these trends are not necessarily reflected in the profiles of the community as only a proportion of those with addiction issues will access traditional services.

To raise the profile of women's issues, every year we organise an event titled 'Women against drugs' to take place on the International Women's Day. This event brings together women from all walks of life to give and receive support and info rmation. We also commend women who have successfully challenged addiction by awarding the 'DAAP Woman of the Year Award'. This year six women won the award for their fortitude as carers in supporting spouses/children with addiction problems. We encourage local sponsorship of the award as it creates greater community accountability.

DAAP has contributed to increasing knowledge about addiction and specific communities, including Khat use in the Somali community, use of illegal drugs and Khat by young people in the Somali community and the needs of Tamil communities (2). There are few systematic studies of quantitative needs that can info rm policy and practice effectively.

One comparative study of White and Asian attendees at a Community Drug Treatment Unit in West London (3) stated that 'Our study provides evidence that there is need for vigorous research in this field, particularly targeting hidden populations like Asian women. This will info rm service development so that it is culturally sensitive and appropriate to the needs of ethnic minorities.'

Another study commissioned by Alcohol Concern and carried out by Aquarius in 2001 (4) on alcohol use by ethnic minority communities (second or subsequent generation) in Birmingham and Leicester showed high levels of drinking amongst African-Caribbean men and women and Sikh men. One of the recommendations stated that community safety and public health campaigns on alcohol should include ethnic minority communities in their target groups.

Despite this, there is little available in different languages in the next phase of the Government's Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England (5) that targets excessive drinking including binge drinking amongst young people and those groups at risk through an advertising campaign. We will therefore seek to make available translated info rmation for the Binge drinking campaign in Ealing.

Issues of denial by the communities and service providers, lack of systematic analysis and the appropriateness of services are just some of the issues that DAAP tackles in ensuring that the needs of diverse communities are met.

Our aim for the future is to set up relevant services for different client groups that go beyond the traditional therapeutic frameworks and modes of working. This will involve evaluating the established intervention models for their relevancy and appropriateness. Our therapeutic programme of action will be solution based and made accessible to all individuals whatever their backgrounds. For after all, if you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got.


(1) Centre for ethnicity and health. Faculty of Health, University of Central Lancashire ' It couldn 't happen to us' — drug education videos for Punjabi. Mirpuri Punjabi, Gujrati and English audiences produced by Dhillon. P (2001, 2002, 2003)

(2) For DAAP publications see

(3) Journal: Journal of Substance Use. Issue Vol. 7, no. 4:

Ethnicity, patterns of substance misuse and criminality: a comparative study of White and Asian patient populations in West London Dar, K., Chaudry, Z.A., Mirza, I. and Alam, F. (2002), UK

(4) See

(5) The Government's Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy published on 15 March 2004 aims to tackle all aspects of alcohol-related harm in England estimated to cost around £20bn a year. The Department of Health and the Home Office is jointly implementing the strategy.

Perminder Dhillon
Chief Executive Officer Drug and Alcohol Project

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Ealing NHS Trust

DAAP is also supported by

Dr Amarjit Khambay
Dr Rashmi Patel MBE



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