Charity overhauled after critical audit

Drinkaware has appointed a new chairman and promised changes to its management after its effectiveness was criticised by an independent audit.

DrinkawareThe charity, which exists to promote responsible drinking, was criticised for its apparently close relationship with the drinks industry who pay the bulk of its income.

The audit, completed in 2013, recommended that the charity place a greater focus on ensuring its work is rigorously research and evidenced-based, with open reporting of outcomes; more collaborative partnership with others in the sector trying to reduce alcohol harm; and a review of its governance to address perceptions of a lack of independence.

In response to the findings, the charity has commissioned new research from independent sources to help inform its strategy and to focus its activities to have the most impact on harmful drinking.

It has also taken the steps to limit the number of trustees from the drinks industry to two, and has begun to forge new partnerships with the public health community, including with the Royal College of General Practitioners and in Scotland.

A spokesperson said: “Trustees have approved radical changes to Drinkaware’s governance to improve effectiveness, while addressing the perceptions in some quarters of a lack of independence, even though the audit found no specific evidence of inappropriate influence.

“The new board will be smaller (down from 13 to between nine and 11).

“Trustees have decided that the ‘quotas’ of five industry and five ‘alcohol professionals’ from outside the industry are no longer appropriate.

“The board will in future appoint Trustees through an open recruitment process based solely on their ability to meet the needs of the organisation.

“The board may only appoint trustees who are currently employed in the industry or have a policy role with respect to alcohol if they satisfy this criterion and if there are not more than two such trustees in either category.”

Sir Leigh Lewis KCB, former permanent secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions, has been appointed its new chairman, succeeding Derek Lewis.

Three new trustees have also been appointed, replacing those retiring at the end of their terms of office, which include Penny Newman OBE, Vicki Nobles and Timothy Walker.

Commenting on his appointment as chairman of the Drinkaware Trust, Sir Leigh said: “I am privileged to have been appointed as Chair of the Drinkaware Trust at a time of enormous change in the organisation and when alcohol-related harm is a critical public concern. I look forward to leading the new Board and to contributing to the strategy and future direction of the Trust.”

Derek Lewis, outgoing Chair of the Trust, said: “The announcement of our formal response to last year’s audit and the major changes in the governance of Drinkaware represents its ‘coming of age’.

“The new board structure and governance arrangements represent best practice in not-for-profit organisations and will ensure that Drinkaware is equipped to play an increasing role in tackling alcohol harm in the UK.”

Sir Hugh Taylor, chair of the Drinkaware Independent Review Panel and chairman of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I very much welcome Drinkaware’s response to the independent audit. The increasing emphasis on evaluation and evidence in its programmes, the fresh impetus being given to partnership working with external stakeholders and in particular the new governance arrangements are all very positive developments, on which the new leadership of the organisation can build.”

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