Richard Velleman

NHS senior management – I held Director or Board level posts within NHS mental health services between 1994 and 2003;

Child Protection proceedings – I have served as an Expert Witness in child protection cases relating to parental substance misuse or parental mental health problems on more than 40 occasions;

and National and International policy: Nationally, I was appointed by the UK Home Secretary as a member of the Alcohol Education and Research Council (now Alcohol Research UK), for two terms of office (1998 – 2001; and 2001 – 2004); I was a founder in 1984 of Alcohol Concern, the government-funded National alcohol agency, and served on its National Executive until 1991. I have been an adviser to the Home Office; to the Department of Health on NHS matters; a member of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Programme Advisory Board on Alcohol and Drugs; a member of the NSPCC External Expert Reference Group on their major project on ‘Physical abuse in high risk families’. Internationally, I have advised Governmental bodies in Australia, Mexico and Italy and have worked extensively with the European Union as an advisor over drug prevention. Recently I was a member of the Scientific Committee for the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA); and an advisor to the European Union over drug prevention; I was a member of the EU project ‘Minimum Quality Standards in Drug Demand Reduction EQUS’; and was the Vice-President of ENCARE. Currently, I am a co-founder, trustee and treasurer of the charity AFINet (Addiction and the Family International): an international network of professionals concerned about the impact of addiction-type problems on close family and friends; and a Senior Research Fellow in India with the Sangath Community Health NGO, Goa, India.

The first International Conference of the Addiction and the Family Network (AFINet) 9 – 11 November 2018

Report on the Conference and how it went

Click here for:

In summary, the conference was extremely successful, and it is absolutely clear that it would not have been possible to either mount the conference in the first place, nor to offer bursaries to so many people from LMICs and other places, without the generous support from the Society for the Study of Addiction and of Alcohol Change UK.

I am pleased to report that the funding provided enabled us to provide bursaries for 20 people from 12 countries to attend the conference. All of the recipients:

  • are from LMICs;
  • or are students;
  • or come from NGOs.
  • We also decided to provide financial support (in terms of travel costs and/or conference fees) to some Trustees who requested this and who could not gather financial support from other sources;
  • and to waive the conference fee for the Conference Organiser and to pay her travel expenses.

Bursary recipients came from six out of the seven continents (no-one attended from Antarctica!), that is from

  • Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, South Africa and USA (countries outside of Europe), and from
  • Finland, Ireland, Italy and Norway, as well a small number of recipients from England and Scotland (countries within Europe).

In almost all cases we gave partial bursaries, with the delegates needing to acquire further funds to enable them to attend. This was because if we had funded all of someone’s expenses from (for example) Australia or India, that would have drained the bursary pot extremely fast and we would have only been able to support a half-dozen delegates.

We also held our AGM at the Conference, where Jim Orford retired as Chair of AFINet.  A new Chair (Dr Gallus Bischof from the University of Lubeck, Germany) was elected from amongst the Trustees at our first meeting following the AGM.  I append below a draft of his brief Report on the Conference which will appear in our next Newsletter.

With renewed thanks and best wishes

Richard Velleman

Professor Richard Velleman
Co-Director, Addictions Research Group and Senior Research Fellow, Sangath Community Health NGO, Goa, India

Emeritus Professor of Mental Health Research, University of Bath

Director, Velleman Consultancy Ltd.

Summary: the First International AFINet Conference, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

With more than 60 participants, the first International Conference of the Addiction and the Family Network (AFINet) that took place in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (England) from the 9th to the 11th November 2018 was a huge success for strengthening collaborations and exchanging ideas about all topics related to Family Members affected by Addiction (FMAs).

At the conference, 30 presenters from all over the world  (12 countries, involving 6 out of the 7 continents – no-one came from Antarctica) covered a wide range of topics, ranging from the (lack of) representation of FMAs in policy documents, specific experiences had by FMAs with regard to relationship status or cultural background, various interventions targeting FMAs (including the 5-Step Method, couples therapy and online tools), to studies on the needs of FMAs with regard to the treatment system. One session on addiction-related family bereavement included the personal history of a mother who suffered from the death of her son, giving voice to the sorrow of FMAs. Since all presentations were restricted to 10 minutes, there was a lot of time for lively discussion and exchange. What I found most impressive during the conference was getting a clearer picture of the diversity in the field (which I regard as a strength of AFINet). A wide range of methodological approaches ranging from different qualitative methods to quantitative data including randomized controlled trials were presented, reflecting the array of skills and expertise represented within AFINet. Another very stimulating aspect included the diversity of social landscapes FMAs live in, regarding the type of addiction as well as regarding culture-specific influences that shape the stressors associated with addiction. It became clear that findings from Anglo-American cultures are not always applicable to FMAs from other parts of the world. Therefore, expanding the reach of AFINet in order to include more researchers and practitioners from low and middle income countries should become an important task.

There was a wide consensus that FMAs so far are widely neglected in research, practice, and policy, and that structural issues like the lack of reimbursement for services (in cultures/countries where access to help is either private or controlled by insurance schemes), as well as the lack of recognition of their suffering by practitioners, are important obstacles for offering the kind of support FMAs need and want. While the conference was encouraging for bringing together the best evidence currently available, it became clear that many important topics still need to be researched in more detail. Just to name a few, the following challenges for future research came up in the final session:

  • Improving the generalizability of research on FMAs, including the development of brief assessment instruments for identifying FMAs and measuring their stress and strain
  • Understanding in more detail how to raise awareness of the situation of FMAs in policy makers and organizations
  • Improving our understanding of differences and similarities between the experiences and needs of parents, partners, and other family members, including when they are bereaved through substance use
  • Understanding how culture-specific influences like family structures or gender-role models influence suffering and treatment needs of FMAs
  • Improving the reach of FMAs by tailored treatment offers and developing strategies to minimize shame and stigma

In the final session, many participants expressed their wish to have further AFINet conferences in the future. In the meantime, the board of trustees has agreed to focus on organising AFINet conferences bi-annually. So hopefully we can provide another opportunity to meet again in the nearer future and stimulate further exchange and networking, whilst in the meantime using the website and other networking options through AFINet (such as the quarterly Newsletter) to keep things going.

Gallus Bischof, Chair, AFINet Trustees

More content from the Conference is on AFINet’s website, on the specific conference pages – see: