Community Alcohol Related Damage Service (CARDS)

Healthy relationships

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We accept that there are those that will continue to drink alcohol.

CARDS does not promote a Recovery model, or an interventionist approach.

As a service which is driven by the input of over 50 volunteers, we utilise the breadth of unique life experiences to match up each individual who comes to us for support, with somebody who meets all of the criteria that they have stated will enable them to get the most out of the relationship.


We support people with the one thing they say that they are motivated towards, which is to be more social. As people become more social, they drink less, as they drink less they are able to be more social.

It’s a simple formula, but it works because it is based around what the individual thinks is best for themselves, not the service.

The influence of the third of our volunteers who are ‘Peer’, has served to enhance our practice. The unique life skills and insights that they bring has helped the non ‘Peer’ volunteers to learn about selfcare, appropriate sharing and the debilitating effects of stigma.


We include everyone in the conversation, service users, staff, volunteers, local and national government.

This is reflected by our volunteer pool including students, retirees, people in recovery from addictions themselves, and even some Social Care professionals who appreciate the opportunity to throw off the ‘professional’ gloves and get a chance to just BE with people.

CARDS would not be where it is today without learning from the voices of lived experience, from those who come to us for support, and those who offer it.


  • Emotional health
  • Social networks
  • Positive use of time

Meet the team

Every day I get to witness our amazing volunteers demonstrating how simple, respectful conversations gradually break down the stigma attached to addiction and watch in awe as doors across the city that were once closed, start opening and welcoming people in.

Tracey Stewart

Volunteer Coordinator, Rowan Alba

What I love about my role is ensuring that the clients and volunteers get the most out of their experience with the service.

It is truly inspiring to observe the benefits (for both client and volunteer) of volunteers developing positive relationships based on mutual respect with some of the most socially isolated members of our community

Lucy Atkinson

Service Administrator, Rowan Alba

Having volunteered for Rowan Alba for three years before finding myself in post here, it was an effortless move in the position of helping other volunteers enjoy the unique experience of working with people who are moving from a re- enablement unit back to their home in the community. It’s exciting to see how my day to day interactions shape the way we provide our service and the wider community.

Gillian McNicoll

Link Support Worker for NHS Lothian/Penumbra ARBD Unit

As a recovering alcoholic myself I am hugely privileged to be involved in helping to facilitate positive relationships between our clients and peer volunteers who can fully empathise with their situation and provide the support and human contact that I know would have been so beneficial to me.

David Milne

Peer Support Worker, Rowan Alba