Leeds Empties: RSA Catalyst-supported project

leeds empties logoLeeds-based fellow Rob Greenland updates us on the progress of Leeds Empties, which the RSA recently supported with a £5,000 Catalyst grant.

You probably have an idea as to what an empty home looks like.  Boarded-up, semi-derelict, with an overgrown front garden. And it’ll probably not be the only empty home on the street.

The reality, at least in Leeds, is very different.  Perhaps 10% of our 5000 long-term empty homes look like this. The rest are empty – but in appearance are no different to any other house on the street.

That’s not to say they’re not a problem. They’ll be costing the owners money – and, whilst there’s a chronic housing shortage, it’s a wasted resource.
leeds empties
More often than not the owner would like to bring their home back into use, but they don’t know where to start. That’s where our Empty Homes Doctor service comes in. Read more

“Magic” pill may be hard to swallow

October 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

The pill that promises to help problematic drinkers, who consume half a bottle of wine or have a couple of pints of beer a day, to drink less is a hard one to swallow.

Nalmefene, which costs £3 per tablet, may soon be offered by the NHS in England and Wales to around 750,000 habitual drinkers who are regularly drinking more than the NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines. It will not be available to severe alcohol-dependent people or those deemed able to stop by themselves without the help of medical intervention. Read more

‘No wonder birds fly so high…’ – A horticulturist’s (and ornithologist’s) nightmare

October 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

An unsuspecting Grandmother from the south-west of England has grown a 5ft cannabis plant in her front garden.  She has broken the law, but will not be punished; other than being asked to remove and destroy the plant.

This all came to light after she sent a picture via email to the BBC Radio Devon’s gardening programming ‘The Potting Shed’, asking for help in identifying the ‘weed’.  She had two emails back; one from the programme experts identifying the plant and the other from the police. Read more

Recovery is not welcome here

October 3, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

The RSA, in partnership with CRI and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust operates across three sites in West Kent and has recently been focussing its effort on raising awareness in the local area. Where possible we have been trying to let the community know that we are here in the hope that we can reduce some of the stigma around recovery and also to encourage the huge amounts of people with a drug or drink problem to access the treatment and support that could help.

With this in mind, I spotted this article today and was both saddened and surprised. Crawley Borough Council has reportedly turned down a proposal to open up a recovery service in the local area. This came after a series of concerns had been aired to councillors by members of the public around the perceived increases in crime and antisocial behaviour that a service might generate.

This isn’t just nimbyism, it’s counter-productive and the concerns are not based on any sort of reality.

I think the overwhelming positivity we have seen in West Kent has made me naïve to the negativity that still surrounds recovery and the short-sightedness of politicians from all sides that don’t want an unpopular decision blotting their copybook.

The major reason given for the refusal seems to be that the proposed site is in a residential area. Heaven forbid that services are made accessible and put in places that people live! I would suggest that this is a perfect place. A good service would likely go out in the community and try to engage with problematic users, just like the fantastic outreach workers do in the West Kent Recovery Service. It would help to solve the problem, rather than acting as a magnet for trouble.

This situation reminded me of a story that a colleague told me a while ago when a local treatment centre was to be moved about 100 yards and placed on the high street. There was an awful lot of fuss from local councillors and residents which died down when it was pointed out that a service had been operating so close by for the last 15 years, without causing any trouble.

On a positive note, it made me realise that there is still a lot of work that can be done, including from the recovery advocates and champions that are all over the country and remain largely unseen. We need to get out in the community more often, let people know that we are here and demonstrate what really happens in a recovery service.

To give you an idea, I spent yesterday morning in one of the West Kent Recovery centres. Whilst in a meeting with a service-user led research team there was a Breakfast Club happening next door. I could hear mixtures of laughter and story-telling, people enjoying each other’s company and sharing their problems. Following this was a peer support group run by the amazing Aspire2Be (more about their work here) and then a music group. In my experience, recovery spaces are inspiring places to be. Nowhere else can I think of a philosophy where supporting other people is so central to your own achievements.

And, if you were wondering, I’d be more than happy to have a recovery service in my back yard.

Mum’s the word! Why we shouldn’t brush ‘legal highs’ under the carpet

September 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

My septuagenarian mother is a hardened, habitual, drug-using criminal, who uses illicit substances on a daily basis.

Or at least she would be if a proposal by the Local Government Association (LGA) was introduced. They are advocating a change to UK Law in order to stop ‘legal highs’ being sold in shops. Making all psychoactive (brain chemistry altering) substances illegal; with some, such as alcohol and tobacco, being made exempt from the legislation. The LGA, which represents 400 councils nationwide, want to replicate the system already in operation in Ireland. Read more

“You’re ‘avin a larf!” Nitrous Oxide – A social epidemic or another moral panic?

September 17, 2014 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Recovery 

I recently went to a friend’s BBQ where, if I’m honest, the choice of food was limited (particularly for a vegetarian like myself) but the choice of recreational drugs was prevalent. I should have expected this, being that those in attendance (I only knew two people before I arrived) were around my age and social class and were all professional people; academics, bankers and therapists. Call me old fashioned (and slightly disappointed) but there was no jelly and ice cream, although someone had bought about 70 Waitrose profiteroles – still unopened in the morning. There were however, balloons (if you’re globophobic you may want to stop reading now). Read more

Nature vs. Nurture? Are you (banana) split?

August 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

They say of authors, and aspiring ones, that they are either architects or gardeners.

Architects like to have things planned out; a beginning, middle and end. On the other hand a gardener just plants seeds and sees what grows from them. I count myself one of the latter, I love planting seeds of thought and growing ideas.Banana

But gardens and plants for real… I’ll leave that to other folk. Too much like hard work. Or so I thought.

I have been blessed with many gifts but green-fingers are not one of them. Hence my dislike of all things horticultural.

So I am pleased to announce that I am the proud owner of one very healthy banana plant; from which I have now taken cuttings and have its off-springs developing nicely.

I never thought I would have so much joy at such a seemingly mundane thing to do as help and nurture a plant to grow and reproduce.

But let me take you back a couple of months. Read more

The labeling of this “Brand” highlights one of the many hurdles of Recovery

August 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

The recent incendiary online spat between the American Fox News Anchor-man Sean Hannity and the British stand-up comedian Russell Brand has provided some moments of unprofessional journalist practices (Hannity) and some moments of quintessential Britishness (Brand).  This is not the forum to delve into the political motivations behind each of the protagonists, neither is it the place to offer support or disagreement to the argument, but the highly emotional subject of the (current) Israel-Palestine conflict debated between these two media faces seems to have exposed an all too familiar prejudice.Russell Brand

It started with Brand’s response to the initial report and interview slot from Hannity who had impressed his personal (pro-Israeli) opinion on a Muslim guest, without seemingly giving him the opportunity to respond.  Amongst his rebuke, Brand referred to Hannity as a ‘Ken doll’, the toy doll which was introduced in 1961(by Mattel) as a boyfriend to Barbie, whose appearance is that of a dimpled and fashionable all-American male.  Read more

NHS Foil for Heroin Users

August 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

The horrors of heroin addiction have been well-documented recently.

Despite its gradual decline amongst users, especially younger ones, who have swapped to novel psychoactive substances (commonly known as legal-highs), the UK still has a heroin problem and the dangers of overdose and needle-sharing still plague this population.

Heroin, like so many other illegal drugs, can never be taken safely BUT it can be made safer.

A new Government initiative that allows the NHS and other registered addiction treatment providers to be able to provide foil to addicts so that they smoke the drug, or to use the street slang ‘chase the dragon’, rather than inject it has been launched. Read more

Link me, Like me, Follow me……do you need a digital detox?

July 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

80 per cent of people would rather go without a car, chocolate or alcohol than be without their digital device for a day according to a recent report. Now I don’t know about you but when someone can’t go without something, or suffer acute withdrawal from lack of its use, I’d call it an addiction. Phones

Just as a person might crave their fix, or their next drink it seems that many of us simply can’t go for any length of time without tapping, scrolling, playing or watching something on a digital device. All the time we are feeding that habit and being kept on the electronic leash we are missing out on a whole world of creative opportunity.

Addiction is a relationship between person and substance. Being wedded to a mobile mistress (or master) is no different.  Read more

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