We all have those days. The ones when we wonder why we do our jobs. Why we manage a team, take our place on a factory plant line, or decided to be a stay at home parent. Those days that are frustrating, unfulfilling and unproductive. Many of us do our jobs because we need a steady pay cheque. Some of us do our jobs because most days it’s not too bad. The lucky amongst us do our jobs because we generally enjoy it.
When I have those bad days, I tend to think about the people I work with. This tends to extend way beyond the team here at the RSA who will always pick me up when my day has been challenging, to the recovery community that I work so closely in West Kent. I have often heard people in this sector say something along the lines of ‘one person committed to their recovery can make up for ten that are not yet ready to change’.
I work with an amazing team of volunteers. The other day, one of them sent me a passage of text that he had posted on a social media website (through which he has many professional contacts including his employer). What struck me most about this was not only the amazing change he has been through, but how proud he is of the journey he has made. Using volunteers and peer mentors who are in recovery in the West Kent Recovery Service is a visible and inspiring demonstration that recovery can happen, but many people still remain anxious and concerned about the stigma placed on addiction and recovery in the wider community. For me, this was an inspiring account of change. Someone who has not only faced their problems and sought out the support they needed, but is not afraid to talk about it, to anyone.
Here is what he wrote:
“Addiction is not something you decide to do. It’s an illness and unfortunately there is NO cure. Some of us are lucky and learn to live and control the condition BUT ask any addict – it is a battle that is very difficult to fight. Many addicts relapse and when they do the addiction takes even stronger hold. It is so easy for non-addicts to judge and say it’s easy to stop. But to all you non-addicts, imagine trying to live your life, constantly swimming against the tide. Every now and then the tide is too strong and carries you back downstream. Some of us lucky ones manage to start swimming upstream again. Unfortunately far too many don’t get another chance. It doesn’t matter what the substance or thing; addiction is addiction.
In a previous part of my life I used no substances whatsoever but was going to the gym three times a day and taking a run at stupid o’clock at night. I now begin to understand; same addiction different substance. For years I kept my addictions secret thinking I was somehow at fault or had no self-control; not knowing that I was wired differently from those non-addicts around me. For me, one of anything was never enough.
I now am learning to live with a co-existence of addiction and other mental health issues. At the moment I am in remission but each day, every breath, every step is a battle to keep my head above water. Every day I can think of a good reason to use. And every day I then find a better reason NOT to.
So to you all. Get this straight. I am an addict! I am currently in a period of remission BUT know I’ll be an addict for the rest of my life. I will fight the fight not to use and take each day as it comes. I’ve accepted my fate and have no secrets from anybody”.
So that’s what will inspire me, for today at least. I hope that everyone finds the same sort of inspiration in their work. I wish you an inspiring rest of your week.
We are bombarded with encouragement to help our neighbours, to participate in our communities and to fight for change in our towns. But how many of us stop to consider whether our actions are the most effective use of the money, time or energy that we are able to give? Maidstone hosts one of the West Kent Recovery Service hubs where the RSA’s Whole Person Recovery project focuses on supporting people to move away from problematic drug and alcohol use and to become responsible and contributory members of society. It is a lovely town, with an abundance of public services and yet also seems to have a disproportionate amount of people who are rough sleeping.
The Council in Maidstone has recently followed a number of other boroughs and launched the controversial campaign ‘your kindness could kill’, aimed at educating people that sometimes providing hand-outs to people who don’t have the skills or willingness to make healthy choices is not the best use of cash. The narrative attached to this campaign is extreme – the inference that if you choose to give money then you are choosing to put someone else at risk. I wonder how successful a campaign like this is, and how exactly success would be measured. Publicity around the campaign states the aim is ‘to tackle begging’ and ‘get homeless people off the streets’, but one wonders what the real motive is behind such an arresting call to action. Undoubtedly, some people are forced into rough sleeping and this is for a myriad of reasons. Britain has a shortage of social housing and in some areas there are reported twenty year waiting lists for appropriate housing. The Maidstone Day Centre, who provide direct services for homeless people, state on their website that they are aware of 25-30 people who will be sleeping rough in Maidstone tonight. Isn’t this what we should be focussing on?
Begging is an emotive issue. Is it better for a person to beg others for money than to commit crime? The aim of the campaign is ostensibly to deter people from donating money to those that may not in fact be homeless and would use it to buy drugs or alcohol, but it seems to me that this micromanagement of the wider problem is a little lacklustre. Is the aim to deter people from begging by cutting them off at the source? Is it to reduce substance misuse amongst the population or is it an attempt to drive funding towards those charitable organisations that are struggling to fill the void created by public service cuts with a harsh reduction in available funding? One of the main problems not identified by those behind the campaign is that giving money to someone in the street is reactive and immediately gratifying, while giving money to a charity often requires planning and is easier to put off or forget about. I wonder at what point it was considered a better idea to try this convoluted campaign over channeling resources into a more direct approach – say more resources for the support homeless services directly, or for street wardens and Police staff. Perhaps street wardens could carry a charity box that the public could immediately divert their funds into?
Just how naïve are people who choose to give money in this way? One comment on the local newspaper’s website stated “there was me thinking every time I bunged a beggar a quid or 2 that they were running straight to the bank to pop into an ISA account”. Even though the public is aware of the risks, they clearly still choose to give.
My concern is that this type of campaign further stigmatise a group of people who already face extreme challenges. Is it the case that people who would give cash to beggars will find a more appropriate way to give? I would be interested to see if the charities that offer homeless support report an increase in charitable donations as a result of this campaign.
If you would like to get involved with any of the wonderful causes that help to support homeless people in Maidstone click here for information, or you could just pop down to the town and start handing out 20p pieces. But that’s for you to decide.
In May 2013, the RSA and Drugscope convened a meeting of the providers that deliver the eight national ‘Payment by Results’ (PbR) substance misuse pilots. The RSA wore two hats: one reflecting our role as a think tank with a now longstanding concern for substance misuse policy and practice; and one reflecting our role as one of the providers. (As readers of this blog will know, the RSA is part of a consortium lead by CRI and including Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which delivers the West Kent PbR substance misuse pilot.)
The purpose of the summit was to explore the provider experience over the first 12 months of operation from April 2012, and in doing so to highlight good practice and identify practical recommendations for implementing PbR schemes. You can download a short summary of the themes discussed and the learning points that emerged below:
I will not summarise or repeat the main points here, but I want to add a reflection on some conversations I had very recently about these points and what they mean for PbR. The pilots represent significant system change, that is happening within significant wider system change, that is happening within wider change still. The move to recovery-oriented systems, delivered through PbR mechanisms in the case of the pilots, is happening in the context of wider health-system change (move to public health, introduction of Clinical Commissioning Groups and Health and Wellbeing Boards, and so on), which is occurring in the context of multiple and complex changes to public services and the welfare system and wider economic stress for many groups and areas (all of which impacts on ‘recovery outcomes’ to varying degrees). Levels of public service performance can often dip after major re-organisations, so isolating the effect of PbR specifically appears difficult.
Further, it was interesting to note that when providers spoke at the summit of the ‘effect of PbR’ in terms of the value-adding change it had made to service delivery and emerging outcomes for service users, it was usually difficult to see how PbR itself had actually brought about this change. Rather, PbR had acted as a catalyst for change – something to shake up the system; a stimulus or opportunity for new thinking and innovation. It seemed that changes could have been brought about by some other catalyst (and in most cases, it seemed that these changes would have happened anyway, given local capabilities and concerns, and as the focus on recovery given by the national drugs strategy washes through the sector). Again, any change measured will be difficult to attribute to the impact of the financial mechanisms and incentives of PbR. The diversity of PbR designs in the pilot sites (and the corresponding diversity of the responses delivered by the providers), and the wider roll out of PbR into other (non-pilot) sites make comparisons across areas difficult. Even with a sophisticated realistic evaluation design, it will be difficult to take account of this much noise. The risk is therefore that we mis-interpret what PbR does (both positively and problematically), and do not consider whether there are better mechanisms for driving transformation, innovation and improved outcomes. At least the pilots are generating a significant amount of data that can help to unpick the puzzle (this is PbR without the black box in practice).
The RSA will be publishing a report in the Autumn that will explore our experience of delivering under PbR arrangements. In the meantime, one clear lesson to emerge from the summit is around the speed of the PbR design phase and the turbulence encountered in the early stage of delivery. Transforming Rehabilitation should take note.
As a newly appointed Fellowship Development Coordinator, one of the first questions I asked my colleagues from the outset was… so what is the average Fellow like? Of course, I soon discovered that amongst the 27,000, there is no such thing as an average Fellow. The Fellowship is made up of a diverse collection of people who are united by the desire to build a better society.
As I slowly heard more from my colleagues about Fellow-led projects, Catalyst fund applications and Fellow Networks I began to understand how Fellows are at the centre of achieving the RSA’s charitable objectives. In recent months we have welcomed some fantastic new Fellows who are undertaking diverse and highly innovative work in their respective fields.
Tunde Omodara FRSA is an entrepreneur who runs a food and manufacturing business both here and in Nigeria. He also founded 2ndWay.Org, a non-profit organisation that seeks to provide affordable loan finance to growing SME businesses in Africa. His interest in the RSA was initially sparked after attending one of our public lectures (did you know you can view most of our events online?) and he has joined the RSA because he is interested in sustainable enterprise and trade as a vehicle to generate social change and development, and would like to meet other likeminded Fellows.
Fellows discover the RSA through a variety of different routes. Enterprise Manager at Ogilvy and Mather Shannon Vaughan FRSA was recently nominated for Fellowship by another Fellow. As leader of the ‘Rough Diamond’ project which aims to nurture raw talent and introduce young leaders to emerging technologies, Shannon believes that ‘we have a responsibility to learn from history’ in order to improve career prospects for young people.
Following a successful career in the city, Rosemary Farmer FRSA decided that she wanted to make a change and focus on work that would benefit the community. Rosemary is currently the Mayor of Harpenden but previously worked with Hertfordshire Joint Commission analysing and assessing the needs of people with substance misuse problems. As she is also chair of the charity Druglink, she became interested in the RSA after learning of the Whole Person Recovery programme. Rosemary would like to engage further with the RSA in tackling the complex problems associated with substance misuse and takes ‘particular interest in the issue of stigma and how it impacts on recovery, integration and aspiration’.
Across the pond in sunny Florida, Robert Belanger FRSA has followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and recently become a Fellow. As a circuit judge in the State of Florida he has long had a commitment to civic innovation and social change. Robert is particularly interested in helping both judges and scholars better understand the judicial process to generate ideas for how it might be improved. He would welcome the opportunity to share and apply these ideas with other Fellows who are committed to the RSA mission.
‘Throughout the past five years or so, I have been asking myself what it is that that makes countries better off.
Some of our other Fellows based overseas are RSA connectors and part of a growing international network of FRSA that act as the first port of call for new Fellows in their country of residence.
Although on paper they seem very different, Fellows are bound by a common desire to improve society, but what truly makes Fellowship so dynamic, is the how.
How can I use my skills and knowledge to change things for the better?
Switzerland based Stephen Schuez FRSA has been considering exactly this:
‘Throughought the past five years or so, I have been asking myself what it is that makes countries better off. I have come to the conclusion that in the form of entrepreneurial activities it is people themselves that forward an economy and help establish a sustainable system.’
Each new Fellow brings with them a personal ‘how to’; the RSA provides them with a platform to expand, collaborate and test it out.
We have a network of 27,000 Fellows in 80 countries around the world. Becoming part of the Fellowship is about demonstrating a commitment to positive social change and working collobaratively to find practical solutions to today’s social challenges.
If you are a Fellow of the RSA and would like to nominate someone for Fellowship you can do so here, or if you would like to connect with any of the Fellows detailed in this blog post, then please do not hesistate contact us.
Alexandra Barker is a Fellowship Development Coordinator at the RSA
The RSA’s Whole Person Recovery project’s first anniversary is this spring. You may have been following our progress in West Kent through the fellowship newsletter, the Whole Person Recovery Newsletter or the Recovery Blog. Maybe you’ve attended a Public Event Programme lecture or a Recovery Alliance Meeting. If this is the first you’re hearing of the programme it’s a perfect opportunity to get involved. You don’t need to have personal experience of addiction or recovery to contribute to the programme. Recovery is a complex and individual journey with which we can all relate to in respect of its organic or non-linear nature.
Attaining ‘recovery’ and achieving a balanced, healthy and engaged life obtaining the things many of us take for granted such as a job, a car, and a family waiting for us when we get home can seem a difficult place to reach. However, Whole Person Recovery is based on the acknowledgement that both addiction and recovery do not occur within a vacuum and are based significantly on social, personal and community influences.
Statistical evidence strongly suggests that one in five of us will know someone who has experienced problems with drugs and/ or alcohol. For those of us who know these individuals, we recognise that alcohol and drugs are usually just a symptom of deeper problems yet to be acknowledged or resolved. Today’s world throws us all tough challenges; for the most vulnerable in our communities these challenges are more hazardous.
Our aim is help programme participants mainstream their lifestyles and plug back into their communities and tap the abundant social resources available so that their recovery encompasses work, housing, friends, family and purposeful activity, in employment, education or enterprise. So what if someone is stable and on their feet again after accessing available support? What comes next? This is where the RSA’s network of Fellows is an invaluable resource.
People in recovery span all strata of society – from the man who used to live on the streets to the mum who has seen her children grow up and fly the nest, but they generally all have one thing in common – they have had to take ‘time out’ to work on their recovery. This time may have left a sense of insecurity or limited or outdated professional skills. There will be a time when such individuals well on the path of recovery will want to achieve goals beyond the sphere of their health and physical wellbeing.
Fellows in West Kent and the South East can make a huge difference to our work in often, quite simple, ways.
- Offering a space on a training course
- Inviting someone to shadow you at your workplace for a number of days
- Attending or giving a talk at one of our West Kent hubs
- Mentoring someone aspiring to enter your field of expertise
Yet again we are talking about alcohol pricing as a realistic strategy for curbing Britain’s excessive drinking. I have been following with interest articles regarding the Government’s proposal to set minimum prices for units of alcohol. The minimum pricing strategy suggests that alcohol in the UK will not be sold at any less than 45p per unit.
Certainly, the impact of problematic drinking on our communities and services such as the NHS is high, but I wonder if the answer is really to attempt to price people out of drinking alcohol. I think it would be fair to say that this strategy is regarded as a quick fix, rather than an attempt to address the issue of excessive drinking. What is needed is an integrated strategy that encourages people to address problematic drinking.
But will minimum pricing have much of an impact on alcohol consumption? There is no short term, quick fix for problematic drinking. A report by The Centre of Economics and Business Research suggests that unless problematic drinkers are priced out by significantly high price rises, they will find ways to maintain their drinking. In my experience, for people who have a physical or psychological dependence on alcohol it’s not really about whether they can afford it or not. For people who drink moderately, price rises may mean that they choose to drink less, or abstain completely. But this is clearly not the group of people who are being targeted by the pricing strategy; “this isn’t about stopping responsible drinking”.
The Alcohol strategy claims that minimum pricing will not impact on the pub trade, because alcohol prices in pubs are already high. Government levies on establishments such as pubs and clubs already price many people out of social drinking, and many choose to drink at home instead. A raise in pricing will not serve to entice people back to their local, but it may mean that for this less visible group of drinkers, problems develop where people choose to go without essentials or rack up debts in order to carry on drinking.
For people who feel unable to reduce their drinking, a price increase may encourage offences such as shoplifting. What the Government’s alcohol strategy does consider are tougher consequences for people committing crime as a result of excessive drinking. For people whose alcohol use leads to problematic behaviour such as offending, the Alcohol strategy proposes running trials of enforced sobriety schemes. I cannot see how attempting to force a person into abstinence fits with the Recovery Agenda. What is lacking from this strategy is a focus on long term solutions – putting more of a focus on encouraging people to make changes to their drinking by addressing the underlying reasons for it.
What the new alcohol strategy makes no mention of are the wider spread impact in terms of alcohol and drugs. Adfam proposes that ‘the future of alcohol policy should account for the effects of excessive drinking on families and children’. It is exactly this type of approach that marries with our Whole Person Recovery model – the idea that a person is less likely to recover without a network of support from their friends and family, and yet it is the same people who are most affected by their loved one’s addiction.
Moves to equip the public with the knowledge and skills to identify problems such as declining mental health and addiction and to empower them to work collaboratively towards solutions would surely benefit us all far more than trying to price people out of problematic drinking. Supportive relationships and good opportunities will be key protective factors in reducing and addressing problematic drinking in young people and our adult population.
The person that wakes up in the morning and has to go and buy a litre of strong cider just to stop themselves being violently ill is unlikely to consider whether he can really afford it or not. The person that drinks excessively at the weekend, ‘pre-loading’ before going out with friends, will probably find that extra few quid to carry on with their habit.
It will take a much more integrated strategy to bring about a cultural shift in our drinking habits. Perhaps they will bring in a minimum price charge for chocolate next.
We are almost one year into our ambitious programme to deliver personalised recovery services and support to people experiencing substance misuse problems in West Kent. Our approach is based on extensive research undertaken by our Whole Person Recovery programme.
We’re looking for an ambitious, entrepreneurial, dynamic Lead Recovery Community Organiser to join the team and work from our one of our bases in West Kent, where you will be co-located with staff from our partner organisations (CRI and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust).
The job will focus on managing two Recovery Community Organisers, and on developing and delivering the Whole Person Recovery Programme in your hub area and across West Kent. You will work to build community based support to help service users sustain their recovery and become socially and economically included in their community as valued local citizens. You will be working with a wide range of service users, RSA staff and Fellows, and local business and civic leaders.
As recovery is a broad concept, encompassing many dimensions of social and economic inclusion, we are interested in hearing from candidates who may come from a range of community development, social innovation, employment, public service and other relevant backgrounds as well as those who work in the substance misuse sector.
If you would like an informal discussion about this job opportunity, please feel free to contact Steve Broome, Director of Research at email@example.com or on 020 7451 6930 or Rebecca Daddow, Senior Researcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was emailed a brilliant blog last week. It’s all about how the internal and external comparisons that many of us are prone to making in life (think ‘keeping up with the Jones’), can lead to a negative spiral of thoughts and judgements. This is particularly true throughout the festive period when we’re constantly bombarded with images of what the ‘perfect’ Christmas looks like on the TV, in the shops, at the cinema.
Christmas tree and decorations. Panto. Cupboards bursting with more food and drink than you could possibly consume. Extended families all with matching jumpers and smiles on their faces. Fairy lights in every nook and cranny. Pops asleep in the corner. A roaring fire. Mountains of gifts under the tree. Stockings at the end of the bed.
The reality is that Christmas doesn’t look like this for most people for a wide range of reasons. This is especially true for many of the people we meet and work with through the Whole Person Recovery Programme. The pressure they put on themselves and each other to mirror this picture-perfect Christmas, can often lead down a very slippery road of despair, depression, anger, shame and relapse.
Thankfully through the West Kent Recovery Service, we have the opportunity to support these individuals and catch the first signs of these unrealistic comparisons, negative thoughts and downward spirals. We’re also putting on a Community Christmas Day at our Tonbridge Recovery Centre for anyone who would like an alternative, but no less ‘perfect’, Christmas Day.
Individuals and their families from across the community will be celebrating Christmas together. Many of them have never met before. Each will be bringing a contribution to the Christmas buffet (where they can). Staff at CRI have been generously cooking up a storm to make contributions even where they can’t be there. Other local agencies like Colebrook Road Hostel, have been getting involved too, donating and cooking a turkey and roast potatoes. My dad is making that old festive favourite, Cornish pasties…!!! It’s going to be an interesting feast. And it won’t look a bit like it does in the movies. But that’s ok because we’ll be ticking most of the 5 ways to well-being and having a great time doing it!
If you or anyone you know would like to find out more about our Community Christmas Day in Tonbridge (Kent), contact Rebecca.email@example.com.
From the Whole Person Recovery team, we wish you a very merry Christmas! Keep connected, stay warm, and find your own perfect Christmas.
Foodbanks have become fairly common across the UK in recent years. There are now more than 250 of them and in 2011-12 they helped to feed 128,687 people nationwide – a 100% increase on the year before.
It might surprise you to know who is accessing this support. The BBC’s recent programme ‘Britain’s Hidden Hungry’ certainly challenged a few of my preconceptions. The programme was a window into the genuine hardships that people are facing and was an alarming indication of how close many people are to the ‘breadline’. How many of us live month to month and could cope with an unexpected redundancy?
It can be difficult to think about people ‘in work’ being ‘in poverty’, but the reality is that according to recent trends, this is the ‘most distinctive characteristic of poverty today’. For these individuals, work has not been the route out of poverty that it should be.
Foodbank’s are a response to the need we’re seeing in communities: in most cases offering short term support to those that find themselves in a time of crisis. I attended the launch of a new Foodbank in Tunbridge Wells last week – Nourish Foodbank – and am working with one of their organisers to link with our Whole Person Recovery Programme in West Kent by providing volunteers at the packing and distribution sites.
This is a fantastic new initiative that aims to do more than simply distribute food. Nourish want to be a community hub offering support and signposting and promote inter-agency working. This is incredibly important as budgets are being cut, jobs are being lost, and people move in and out of ‘poverty’ and crisis. We need to use our resources better, unearth latent ones, and create new ones. This is at the heart of what we’re doing in the recovery sector through our Whole Person Recovery programme and so, as you can imagine, we fully support this new community organisation.
The festive period can be a particularly difficult time for many. If you or someone you know is facing a crisis and needs to access a Foodbank outside of Tunbridge Wells, check out www.trusselltrust.org/foodbank-projects for information about your nearest Foodbank.
For those of you that live in or around Tunbridge Wells and would like to support the Nourish Foodbank contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Sophie needed a new toothbrush, she was overwhelmed by the ridiculous choice of products available that all (give or take the odd tongue scrubber) do exactly the same thing. There are an awful lot of toothbrushes being made, and even more being thrown away. The NHS recommends that you “replace your brush or brush attachment every three months”. If we had all stuck to this advice in 2011, we would have thrown away 224.4 million toothbrushes in England and Wales alone.
So what happens to these toothbrushes when we throw them away? From the look of the one that Sophie found washed up on a beach, not a huge amount happens to them at all. Despite having been battered by the tides, this toothbrush looked in pretty good nick. So when these toothbrushes are sitting in landfill, they are doing just that. Sitting there. Wasted. All 224.4 million of them.
Then Sophie found a toothbrush that really puzzled her: A disposable electric toothbrush. The packaging clearly states to replace it after 3 months. It also carries the WEEE symbol, meaning that the consumer is responsible for ensuring the product is correctly recycled. But how? Sophie had no idea how to go about this. She couldn’t put it in with her regular recycling, and she didn’t want to just put it in the bin. So she took it apart!
Inside the toothbrush, along with a battery she found a motor, just like the ones that we have in our mobile phones to make them vibrate. The funny thing is, the motor wasn’t attached to the bristles. All this toothbrush does is make our hand vibrate.
She decided to send it to her friend Hywel at Sheffield Hallam University who took a closer look.
He found the plastic made up 85% of the weight of the tootbrush, and the motor alone was 10% of the total weight. Within this tiny 10% he has so far found the following ‘ingredients’:
This vast list is before we even get to the polymers used. These will contain fillers that he hasn’t yet measured, but titanium is likely to appear here.
The Royal Society of Chemists place Carbon and Tin as having a medium supply risk, and Tungsten and Neodymium as high. This means that if consumers don’t know how to recycle these small electrical items they fall through the gaps and these precious elements are locked in landfill, increasing the pressure on supply
The way to break this cycle is through systems thinking where everyone plays a role through the life cycle of the product, including the designer. Product designers could work with the design commissioner to make it easier to take the toothbrush apart (without the need for a saw!), packaging designers could work with supply chains to make recycling directions clearer, and government, brands and consumers could reassess the need for a disposable electric toothbrush in the first place,
Join us in our investigation into closed loop design. Why don’t you take something apart and see what you discover? (making sure you take the necessary safety precautions of course!) To contribute to our deconstruction series, contact Hilary.email@example.com or come along to one of our Great Recovery e-waste workshops, taking place throughout November.
This post was originally published on the Great Recovery blog.