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Chapter Ten: AA Telephone Services
3. Telephone Service and Twelfth Step Work
Our national Telephone Service operates throughout Great Britain using the telephone number
0800 917 7650
This number links the caller geographically to a local responder who will take incoming
enquiries and where appropriate, pass details of the request for help on to a member who
has been listed under local arrangements to carry out Twelfth Step work.
The National Helpline is intended for the use of the still suffering alcoholic.
The purpose of this guidance is to make officers aware of recommendations that may
enhance helpline operation and provide safeguards to both callers and members.
Please check with your local intergroup/region for information on how the Telephone
Service operates in your area.
Responsibility for telephone services begins with intergroups; however in some areas it
has been agreed to devolve this responsibility to regions. Officers within the structure are
intergroup Telephone Liaison Officer (TLO); region TLO; Telephone Committee and the
GSB member with responsibility for Telephone Service.
Our Traditions of autonomy and self-support apply to all Helplines. Operation of the
national system means that there are two sets of telephone accounts generated for each
Helpline number. It has been agreed generally that “local” numbers (usually intergroups)
will take responsibility for their account while GSO will meet payment for the national
account. Expenses incurred by members participating in telephone service may be claimed
from their intergroup.
Telephone Service and Twelfth Step Work
The main purpose of telephone services is to put the suffering alcoholic in touch with an
individual contact or AA group. It is the responsibility of the members of the local group
to carry out the necessary Twelfth Step work, to provide a welcome to the new members
and to share their experience, strength and hope with them and to help them on the road to
The Hints and Suggestions card for 12th Steppers has been acknowledged for its simple
and comprehensive guidance. Awareness of this card needs to be emphasised throughout
A telephone service requires support and participation by the groups and members in its
area, not only in a financial sense, but in every aspect of its existence. To ensure that this
support is maintained it is essential that 12th Step contact lists are kept up to date.
Common sense with a regard to AA principles is of much more help in maintaining a
telephone service than is the establishment of administrative procedures.
However, certain recommendations can be made from experiences of telephone services to date:
• Responders and 12th Steppers should be chosen with care and endorsed through an
agreed intergroup procedure. A minimum of 12 months’ continuous sobriety is ideal
• Landlines are strongly recommended for home-based telephone responding. If an
intergroup allows the use of mobile telephones to permit AA members without a
landline to participate in telephone service, these should only be used at home. The
use of mobiles in other locations or on the move is not acceptable due to the possibility
of poor reception, lack of privacy along with the threat to anonymity. Another problem
that can occur is when the caller gets through to a responder on a mobile with a prerecorded message (when phone is busy) that gives out the responders name and/or
number. This confuses the caller and affects AA as a whole
• The Responder answering the call should remember the first time caller is nervous
and may have been drinking, so the response should be positive and sympathetic.
Calling the emergency services should be the last resort of responders if they are
worried about a caller. Although such calls are very few in number it is recognised
they can be distressing. Responders should be made aware that the caller should be
encouraged to take the responsibility of calling the relevant service that may help
him/her, i.e. Samaritans, Police, and NHS. However, where the life of the caller, or
the lives of others, is apparently at risk, we should notify the appropriate authority of
• The Responder’s role is to pass on the caller’s details to a member on the 12th Step
list. The Responder needs to keep the call brief and confined to taking the necessary
particulars, so that the telephone is kept free for other callers
• Details of phone numbers of AA members, nominated by local groups, who are ready
and willing to carry out Twelfth Step work should be to hand and listed on an area basis
for speed of reference. Experience has shown that it is vital to link “male to male” and
“female to female” when placing Twelfth Step calls. When making Twelfth Step visits,
it is strongly recommended that more than one person should make such visits
• An up to date list of group meetings should be available for immediate reference
• Intergroup and regional officers’ phone numbers, together with the SSO, NSO, and
GSO phone numbers, should be readily available to responders so that calls from the
media or other agencies can be referred to the correct source. Other agencies and Al-Anon contact numbers should also be available
• Calls received from employers, doctors, social workers, newspapers, radio and TV
should be passed to the relevant Service Officer. Calls from national press, radio
or television should be referred to the General Service Office in York so that a
coordinated response can be made
Great care should be taken regarding the confidentiality of members’ phone numbers. The
information as to how an enquirer can be contacted is taken by the Responder and passed on
to the member. It then becomes the responsibility of that member to take whatever action is
appropriate. Responders should not give the caller an AA member’s phone number under any