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.

Someone you know?

We all know someone that we think might need help with their drinking.  A parent, a child, a neighbour, a friend, The list goes on.  We take referrals from anyone as long as the person understands that you have got in touch.  That conversation can be a difficult conversation to have.  The difference with our service is that it is not a recovery based intervention.  It is the provision of a relationship that hopefully will lead to positive health outcomes.  We can help you think about how you would go about that conversation as we realise that it’s not an easy one to make.  Please get in touch with us anyway. We will do all we can to help.

Someone you work with?

We receive referrals from GP’s, community nurses, alcohol services, alcohol liaison nurses, housing associations, social workers and many more professionals working in our communities.  If you are working with someone who has spoken to you about loneliness, isolation or problematic drinking and you think they would be open to a visit a week from a volunteer then please get in touch by completing and returning our referral form below with as much information as you can.  We will call you back and let you know when we have a volunteer ready.

If that someone is you?

If you are reading this and you think you would benefit from seeing one of our amazing volunteers then chances are you will.  Many of our volunteers have been through years of problematic drinking themselves if that helps to know.  We have a dedicated support worker David who will be the person to call you back and help you decide if you think that this is for you. We are not pushy nor do we wish you to sign up for something that you dont want.  You can take all the time you need to make your decision.  All we need is a number or an email address to contact you and you can change your mind at any time.

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

I am delighted  to work for a project that accepts people as they are and offers support through connection and communication.   Such a simple formula and so effective!  I’ve had some great experiences as a volunteer myself and that motivates me to provide a good service to CARDS volunteers and cards clients.  I feel particularly lucky to witness first hand the benefits the CARDS service has for all involved. 

Sarah Malone

Administrator and Communications, Rowan Alba

Meet the team

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