Design a site like this with
Get started

Access to treatment for ethnic minorities

Expert Submissions

Mobeen Azhar


Mobeen Azhar is an award-winning journalist whose recent BBC documentary ‘Hometown: A Killing’ examined the issues of drugs, violence and the death of Yassar Yaqub in his hometown, Huddersfield. Mobeen will explore the cultural barriers that obstruct people from the Asian community from entering treatment and talking about their experience of addiction. During his documentary, Mobeen revealed that his community rarely talk about these issues. He reported that these issues are often labelled as “bestii”, described in the documentary as an Indian word that translates as embarrassment, dishonour or shame. This perception of shame is clearly a driving force behind the lack of coverage addiction gets in Asian communities. 

Mobeen’s documentary series can be found here.

Sohan Sahota

Founder, BAC-IN

‘In all walks of life we frame our understandings based on the lens we apply and the lives we have lived’

I am the co-founding member of BAC-IN.  BAC-IN, a Nottingham based, peer-led drug & alcohol support service provides culturally responsive recovery solutions for adults and families from Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic communities.  An award winning service inspired and founded in 2003 by individuals in recovery. We believe support from others who have been through addiction is one of the most effective and therapeutic route to recovery. 

I am a BACP Accredited/UKRCP Registered Counsellor/Psychotherapist. I have experience in the fields of counselling, psychotherapy, drug/alcohol addictions, abstinence based recovery, mental health, culturally specific interventions and clinical supervision.  I’ve trained at the University of Nottingham, Temenos, University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) and Chartered Management Institute (CMI) in subjects ranging from professional counselling practice, supervision, drug strategy, business management and leadership development.

In our view BAME communities are not adequately represented in treatment figures. There are many reported reasons for this including barriers to accessing commissioned services, in brief:

  • Are commonly related shame, stigma, discrimination & trust
  • The lack of choice of treatment & support options
  • The lack of culturally sensitive support & culturally reflective workforce
  • Lack of culturally reflective workforce with lived experience
  • Lack of consideration given to faith and spirituality based recovery options
  • Language barriers
  • Issues with confidentiality, fear of misdiagnosis & past experiences of racism

Project Ahryzen, Sheffield Hallam University 2019, ‘Experiences of mainstream services: a lack of diversity and cultural knowledge among staff in mainstream services for drug and alcohol recovery was reported as preventing them from adequately understanding and meeting the needs of BAME people with addiction.  The belief systems of BAME communities are rarely known or understood by mainstream service providers, and therefore they are ill equipped to provide the necessary support’.

BAC-IN recognises that there is a need for BAME people seeking recovery to have a service that meets their need and who can confidently respond to their complex cultural issues.  BAC-IN was developed in 2003 as a small user led self-help support group in response to an unmet need & gap in commissioned mainstream services. BAC-IN provides a unique, culturally responsive, peer centred environment where individuals can connect, be a part of and share their concerns and experiences as they relate to their culture, faith, ethnicity, beliefs, values or spirituality with peers from similar backgrounds. This group provides a culturally specific, peer led forum that acknowledges diversity, values difference and embraces a choice of cultural, faith-based and spiritual perspectives to addiction recovery and rehabilitation.

BAC-IN provides an alternative approach and offers:

  • Choice of Peer led services built on lived experience, recovery and cultural expertise
  • Choice of cultural, faith-based and spiritual perspectives to addiction recovery & wellbeing
  • A service with capacity to support individuals with their concerns and experiences as they relate to their culture, faith, ethnicity, beliefs & values
  • Multi language support to address some of the language barriers

BAC-IN staff & volunteers reflect the ethnic backgrounds, experiences & lived realities of those we aim to support which leads to sustained engagement and more positive outcome. The essence of lived experience, addiction recovery & cultural expertise is at the heart of BAC-IN’s guiding philosophy & organisational principles enabling all our staff to engage effectively with people we support.

Nathaniel Ameyaw

Senior Recovery Worker, BAC-IN

‘We are strengthened with a sense of belonging & connection within an authentic space that genuinely mirrors our experiences & realities.’

I am a qualified Substance Misuse Practitioner and hold a diploma in Counselling & Psychotherapy. I am a certified Minister of religion working within Nottingham inner city.  I currently hold the position of Senior Recovery Worker with BAC-IN.  BAC-IN is a culturally sensitive, peer led, drug & alcohol recovery support service. We provide support for vulnerable adults & families from Black Asian & Minority Ethnic communities. A grassroots, award winning service founded in 2003 by individuals in recovery. 

I initially accessed BAC-IN for support with my own addiction issues in 2005. After 2 years of intensive support from BAC-IN I was given a volunteering opportunity within the organisation. In 2008 I was offered a full time position with BAC-IN as a support worker and have carried out various roles for BAC-IN since that time, Prison in-reach worker, and Young Person’s Alcohol worker.  We believe support from others who have been through addiction is the most effective & therapeutic route to recovery.  As an organisation we recognise the many challenges & cultural issues being faced by those seeking help and the impact of addiction on families. We understand that fear, shame & trust issues can prevent many from reaching out for help. We’ve been there ourselves. We strive to help every service user towards a chance of a new start in life and a positive future.

In our view, BAME communities are not adequately represented within treatments & support services due to services not being set up to meet the cultural needs of BAME communities.  The local mainstream services are doing some good work providing generic support, advice & treatment for the general population however  there is a dis-connect between the experience of BAME communities accessing help & the perceptions of how well service providers are catering for all communities is polarised. This misperception leaves many of those seeking help unsupported & isolated, often resulting in health deterioration & further multiple disadvantage.

Many BAME people remain unsupported and deal with issues in isolation often leading to detrimental health problems which later become challenging to address i.e. mental health, poverty, family breakdowns, domestic violence, unemployment, offending and health crises resulting from lack of appropriate intervention and lack of culturally responsive treatment/support options. Community based services in many instances are left to respond to these consequences often under pressure and are under resourced financially from local commissioning.  The NDTMS National Statistics for Alcohol and drug treatment for adult’s reports; People recorded as white British made up the largest ethnic group in treatment, (84% or 222,775) with a further 5% from other white groups. No other ethnic group made up more than 1% of the total treatment population. You can read the full report here.

Nationally and locally BAME communities are underrepresented in treatment. Nottingham city has an estimate population of 325,300 , with 35% BAME. 1 in 10 people are affected by substance misuse as stated in (Nottingham Adult Substance Misuse Document published in 2015). The local picture for Nottingham informs us that in 2017/18 only 57 (7.9%) people from the BAME communities accessed mainstream services for alcohol and 392 (14.1%) for drug treatment.  This is not taking into account those that do not come forward for support and suffer in silence. BAME communities in general are not accessing or engaging mainstream support due to stigma, shame and trust issues. In addition to this there is no culturally appropriate support or options provided to respond to the complex issues being experienced by most BAME individuals.

Local NDTMS – Ethnicity breakdown of clients in structured treatment in Nottingham (2017/18)

  • White British – 77.7%
  • White Irish/White other – 6%
  • Not stated/other – 2.2%
  • BAME – 14.1%

NDTMS – Ethnicity breakdown of alcohol clients in structured treatment in Nottingham (2017/18)

  • White British – 82%
  • White Irish/White other – 10%
  • 57 BAME – 7.9%

%d bloggers like this: