"reducing alcohol and drug related harm in our communities"


Alderman Stephen Martin Visits Our Lisburn Office

Alderman Stephen Martin (Alliance, Lisburn North), from Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council (LCCC), recently visited our office at Bridge Street in Lisburn to find out more about ASCERT’s work and impact.

Alderman Martin who alongside sitting on the Capital Projects, Corporate Services and Governance and Audit committees within Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, acts as the Chair for the Alliance Party, was keen to hear more from representatives of ASCERT about the prevalence and impact of substance misuse not only within the council area, but also more widely throughout the province as a whole.

During his visit Alderman Martin met with ASCERT’s Chief Executive, Gary McMichael, and was given an overview of the wide ranges of services and supports ASCERT has been providing to many thousands of young people, adults, families and practitioners each year for the past 20 years throughout Northern Ireland that aim to reduce the harm caused by drugs and/or alcohol misuse and other related issues.

Mr McMichael outlined to Alderman Martin how ASCERT’s community-based services are increasingly seeing people presenting for support with more complex needs that are contributing to their substance use problems. Issues such as mental wellbeing, financial problems, relationship issues, housing and homelessness, threat and intimidation are more commonplace when people engage with ASCERT, requiring a more holistic approach when developing and delivering services.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr McMichael noted some of the key trends and issues he had discussed with Alderman Martin, he said: “Increasingly we are seeing the impact of both prescription drug misuse within our communities and also that people are more commonly taking multiple types of drugs together and with alcohol, which dramatically increases the risk of overdose and other problems.

“If we are to address problems from alcohol and substance use in our community we need to focus on preventing substance misuse and reach more people at an earlier stage, before they become addicted or are experiencing other significant problems.

“Unfortunately although there is increasing need, we are losing services because funding isn’t available. In April this year ASCERT was forced to close its Alcohol and You service in the South Eastern Trust. This service supported around 200 people each year in this area and despite 95% of these people having reduced their drinking, we were told that there was no longer any money available to support it and it closed its doors. This means there is now a greater unmet need in our community.

“There is lack of clear policy direction in this area and the availably of appropriate levels of funding to resource much needed community-level services. The absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly and working Programme for Government in Northern Ireland are also currently creating a ‘void’ which makes planning for future service development a very real challenge.”

Despite these challenges, ASCERT has demonstrated its commitment and determination to provide the best possible support it can where and when it is needed.

ASCERT is providing services to almost 10,000 people of all ages, with 91% of those engaged with reporting an increase in their knowledge to make healthier and safer choices and 96% of those who accessed an intervention service showing a reduction in their substance use.

Last year ASCERT delivered free workforce development training to 1,141 practitioners to empower them to better support anyone they work with whom is impacted by substance misuse and also provided protecting life training to a further 128 local practitioners.

Speaking about the meeting and more generally his observations on the work of ASCERT, Alderman Martin said: “I am grateful to Gary and the ASCERT team for taking time out to discuss amongst other issues how we can combat the stigma still associated with drug and alcohol misuse so that we can focus on mapping where the gaps might be in service delivery and between the different organisations working in this area. 

“Too often the detail can go over people’s heads but it is important we as elected representatives inform ourselves so that when significant policy and funding decisions are being made we can contribute to the debate in a meaningful way.”

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23 Bridge Street,
Co. Antrim
BT28 1XZ

Tel: 0800 2545 123
Fax: 028 9260 3874
Email: info@ascert.biz
Charity Number: NIC101239