Past life regression and Indian head massage could help deal with alcohol problems under new Doncaster project

For more than three decades, they have played a key role in helping people in Doncaster overcome drinking problems.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 17th January 2019, 8:19 am
Updated Thursday, 17th January 2019, 2:39 pm
Nicola Brown, Project Co-ordinator and Callum Dixon, CEO, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-04-12-18-SoberSocial-2
Nicola Brown, Project Co-ordinator and Callum Dixon, CEO, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-04-12-18-SoberSocial-2

But this year, things are changing at Doncaster Alcohol Services, with the organisation which has helped thousands over the years set for a fresh start.

Firstly, the long serving founder and boss of the charity, Helen Owen, retired.

Nicola Brown, Project Co-ordinator and Callum Dixon, CEO, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-04-12-18-SoberSocial-2

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Secondly, at the start of December, the charity's sub-contracting arrangement with Aspire, the NHS-run organisation that runs the borough's treatment services for substance abuse, came to an end.

Officials at the organisation faced a crossroad. Either close down after decades building their organisation's reputation, or find a new role for the future.

They chose the second option.

As a result, the charity is set for a relaunch in the new year, which will see it redefine what it does.

It will continue to work with people who have problems with alcohol. But it will also expand its helping role to supporting other vulnerable sections of the community.

The most visible sign of its new work will be a new drop-in centre on Priory Place, called the Sober Social.

It will serve as a venue were people can come in for company and help.

According to official statistics, there are around 42,000 people in Doncaster drinking at levels considered harmful '“ that is any level above the recommended intake allowance.

The new chief executive of Doncaster Alcohol Services, Callum Dixon, wants to help them '“ and others in the community.

He said: 'It was close down or rebrand, so we decided to rebrand.

'Doncaster has one of the highest prevalences of drug and alcohol abuse in the UK.

'But not everyone wants to engage with medical services. And we wanted to do something that was fresh in the town centre and that stood out from everything else that was already being done.

'Doncaster Alcohol services has done great work in the town for 35 years For the last four we have been running services for Aspire, and perhaps lost our identity a bit.

'Now we're setting up Sober Social. It is a space that people will be able to come and use. We will hold workshops and events on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays. During the first month we will be doing yoga, a book club, and basic Spanish lessons. After it has been running for a while, we will ask the people who use the service what events they want us to run there.

'We'll also be doing sessions on managing money and entrepreneur skills. The only requirement to come and join us is that you must be over 18 and sober when you engage.

'We are pitching our work at people who are ready to change. You don't have to have a problem with drugs and alcohol. It could be other vulnerable people, perhaps those who are lonely, or marginalised. They can come and learn new skills and meet people.'

The charity hopes to create a thriving community hub, but it will be largely dependent on volunteers. They are hoping that the people who run some of the sessions it holds will be volunteers with expertise that they can share.

It will have a low cost cafe, too.

The idea will be to build the confidence and aspirations of those who use the Sober Social for the future. The charity wants to work on several strands '“ prevention, treatment and recovery.

Former boss Mrs Owen has still remained involved with the charity, in an advisory capacity.

The prevention work will deal with  with young people, warning about the risks alcohol can pose.

But it will also target older people.

The charity believes there are certain '˜trigger points' that can sometimes lead to alcohol problems. These include key events such as retirement, bereavement, loss of identity and changes in health.

In terms of treatment, DAS will be looking at complementary therapies, such as peer support. It will provide a venue for meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. It will also offer Indian head massage, reflexology and past life regression, through hypnotists. The common strand is that these are not offered by the existing mainstream organisations.

The work around recovery will be aiming help people rebuild their lives and skills and restore their confidence.

Substance abuse has been topical in Doncaster in recent months, as agencies have worked to prevent antisocial behaviour in the town centre, which has been linked to abuse of the drug '˜spice' as well as alcohol.

DAS hope they will be part of the solution in the town.

Mr Dixon said: 'We're hoping that we will give people who engage with us a sense of belonging and a sense of identity. All our staff have been substance abuse practitioners in the past. We hope to help people overcome their problems in a less structured way, on a drop-in basis.

The relaunch of Doncaster Alcohol Services will be on January 16. The first day of opening for the Sober Social will be two days later.


Doncaster Alcohol Services will be running nine projects.

They are:

n PoP: Places of Potential '“ which will work with disadvantaged 11 to 18 year olds to build their skills, aspirations, and resilience. It will be themed on pop culture with Bake-Off and Apprentice-style events.

n Smart Energy: Advice on making homes more comfortable and affordable through efficient use of energy

n #SoberSocial: Scheme to show young people how to use social media for campaigning purposes.

n Sober Social: Drop in venue to help vulnerable people and offer support services.

n Work Wednesday: Local businesses explaining how to overcome barriers to success, and teach financial skills and CV writing.

n Eat Well Wednesday: Teaching about how to eat well and encourage family eating.

n Art therapy project: Creative therapy projects using art.

n Older people outreach: Project aimed at over 50s looking to help people in at risk groups or facing common trigger point issues.

Volunteers and support

Doncaster Alcohol Services already has volunteers keen to help its work.

Five have already signed up to help with their work, and they have already had many expressions of support from their former service users.

Chief executive Mr Dixon said: 'We've had a lot of support from former users, and some have already dropped off furniture for us to use, and flowers too.

'We also need volunteers, and would ideally have around 20, to take up different roles.

Anyone interested in helping can email [email protected] or ring 01302 360090.