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 This time may have left a sense of insecurity or limited or outdated professional skills.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.
It is not often that service users and practitioners alike are scrambling for copies of the same academic publication. Professor Joanne Neale, Dr. Sarah Nettleton and Dr. Lucy Pickering have produced a piece of work that captures the ‘The everyday lives of recovering heroin users’ through interviews with forty men and women in varying stages of recovery from heroin use. The book illuminates the mental, physical and emotional struggles and transformations someone might go through in recovery using the words of those with first-hand experience.
In July we published this fantastic contribution to UK recovery research and hosted a launch event in the RSA Vaults. Shortly afterwards we welcomed Prof. Neale to West Kent to open the RSA’s Whole Person Recovery Public Events Programme. RSA Fellows, CRI practitioners and service users gathered to hear Prof. Neale speak on what many of the research participants described as their ultimate goal of recovery – to feel ‘normal’ again. The book itself explores this idea through the lens of the common physiological changes a person experiences in recovery. Through a growing body of evidence and a focus on recovery we are now beginning to understand the social processes involved in recovery and what it means to recover. This approach lends a human face to what has otherwise been marginalised by punitive and medical responses to addiction that often leave service users feeling disempowered.
This book is a piece of academic research and so much more. It is presented primarily through quotes from interviews with the study participants, once again letting those with first-hand experience tell their own stories and guide the research. It offers something for the practitioner, the student, the recoveree, the supporter, the neighbour, and the commissioner. It is therefore relevant and accessible to the very people who are on the ground living and supporting recovery and exemplifies recent policy shifts from what Arnstein’s ladder of participation characterises as manipulation, to collaboration. The scope and focus of the research recognises that recovery from problematic drug and alcohol use affects everything from sleep patterns, family relationships, libido, appetite and diet, daily hygiene, etc. etc. It is therefore a highly personalised, human and social experience and one that cannot be rigidly defined or prescribed.
The Whole Person Recovery Programme is founded on the recognition that recovery is personal and holistic. The original research in West Sussex was centred on meaningful service-user involvement and tapped into a wealth of knowledge and experience that we believe points the way to developing an environment in which more people can sustain their recovery and influence the role of public services. Inspired by the author’s approach and Professor Neale’s visit to West Kent, the Whole Person Recovery team launched a project in a similar vein at a workshop before the lecture. The ‘What’s your story?’ project was launched with a dynamic group discussion of personal experiences of the things covered in the book. Afterwards, Katie Gibbs, a nurse at CRI in Maidstone said ‘I really appreciated having that protected time to talk to clients about these kinds of issues’ and put her experience immediately into practice by collecting toiletries from co-workers that can be given out to clients who might need a toothbrush, shampoo, shower gel, even just a bar of soap.
I really appreciated having that protected time to talk to clients about these kinds of issues.
The ‘What’s Your Story?’ project will continue to gather stories of recovery in any means of expression and from anyone touched by recovery through workshops with photographers, painters, writers, musicians, etc. The collected work will form an exhibition curated by volunteers in recovery that will be shown across West Kent and perhaps beyond, broadening the exposure – and perhaps even the contagion – of recovery.
Informing and engaging wider communities is an important aspect of the Whole Person Recovery Programme. Addiction and recovery do not occur in isolation and building support networks must be collaborative and cooperative. Heroin users rarely have an opportunity to tell their own stories and ‘The everyday lives of recovering heroin users’ provides insight into real experiences of recovery and could guide what support services and communities can improve on and provide. Instead of the pity, reproach, condescension and manipulation people in addiction and recovery often experience, in this book they are presented as whole people with families, jobs, friends, pasts and hopes for the future.
If you would like to submit a testimonial or get in contact with the authors click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog takes in some stories and reflections from last weekend’s 4th UK Recovery Walk, some related learning from the RSA’s own work programme on recovery, and links to our new work on commissioning.
When I arrived at the assembly point on Hove Lawns half an hour before the scheduled start, I was somewhat concerned. Where was the large number of people registered to attend this year’s recovery walk? Perhaps the unseasonal sunshine had offered up other opportunities more appealing than a two and a half mile uphill walk through Brighton? The stewards and volunteers (who did an excellent job throughout the day) left it as long as they dared before finally calling people to gather round the opening speaker. Then, as the first words of welcome projected from the speakers, the crowd swelled as previously hidden people flocked in from the beach, the promenade, and the nearby shops and cafes. The scattered fragments of recovery had become a recovery network, humming with anticipation and excitement. The promised turnout had been reached (or perhaps even surpassed).
The speakers finished and the walk commenced with a palpable sense of joy and shared experience. T-shirts and banners testified to the fact that this was indeed a national walk – recovery groups from Warrington, Lancashire, Durham, Birmingham, Westminster, and nearby Adur (among many others) made their presence known, adding great voice to the colour (WARRINGTON, LA LA, LA!). We snaked our way through the town, swapping stories and good wishes. The crowd was peppered with familiar faces from various RSA projects – it was wonderful to see so many people from Peterborough, Bognor Regis, Crawley and Kent where we have worked in recent years looking so well and celebrating their recovery.
Everyone wanted to talk and connect to those around them. I struck up conversation with a young guy next to me. ‘Is that a Bichon Frise?’ he asked. I had brought my dog along on the walk. ‘It is, yes.’ ‘I’ve got one of those. I used to have a twelve stone Rottweiler, but I got rid of it when I got clean. Much as I loved him, it just didn’t kind of fit me anymore. I’m not angry like I used to be, you lose all that don’t you? So, my mum comes round with this box, I open it up, and there’s this little ball of fluff inside – a Bichon. I wouldn’t be without him now. Says a lot about how recovery has changed me I suppose. Mind you, I was always a Bichon at heart, on the inside’.
The police, shoppers, and locals added to the sense of celebration, in places cheering the walk along like an Olympic event (although perhaps an equal number of locals seemed bemused and tried to work out the theme and purpose of the march). We reached our destination at Preston Park, grateful for the water handed out by CRI. We had more speakers and more celebration. Caroline Lucas, the local MP for Brighton Pavilion described the event as incredibly inspiring, providing a chance for people who have sought and gained recovery to come together with family and friends to challenge the stigma around addiction, improve understanding, and bring hope to those struggling with substance misuse. Several bands kept the natural high going through the afternoon.
Scattered around the stage and stalls were message boards, offering people a chance for personal reflection, remembrance, and celebration. I started talking with a woman (let’s call her Sue) from South London, a long-time alcoholic recently in recovery. She told me about her broken relationships with her children and siblings, exhausted from the stresses of trying to live with and support someone with an addiction. The very fact that she had come on the walk had prompted her sister to get in touch for the first time in years. She had found out from a friend that Sue was now in recovery and had made the effort to travel down to Brighton by herself to cement and celebrate her recovery. The relief and nervous joy in her face in retelling the story brought a lump to both our throats. From here she looked forward to reconnecting with her kids.
I am pleased that the RSA in some small way supported this excellent event. Local Fellows provided a small grant to help in the planning stage, and our staff sat on early planning committee meetings and helped to promote and transport some people to the event. This is one of the things that distinguishes the RSA and makes it a fantastic organisation – its interest in and commitment to landing both policy change and action, as our new Action and Research Centre attests. But the real plaudits go to the group of people in recovery who organised such an uplifting and well-executed event.
More broadly, raising the profile and visibility of recovery is an important part of changing the public perception of those suffering addiction and of reducing the stigma felt by some of those most marginalised in society. The RSA’s West Kent Whole Person Recovery programme aims to generate this visibility and promote public dialogue, connecting the notion of recovery and the people in it to the wider parts of their communities from which they are often removed. By weaving together disparate individuals and interests (of service users, RSA Fellows and other citizens and local organisations and businesses) into productive networks, we can provide our service users with opportunities for engagement, action, influence, and skills they might otherwise not receive. (If you live or work in Kent and would like to participate in one of these community hubs, please get in touch.)
National walks and local recovery networks can help to create the cultural shift, social spaces, and support that aid people in moving away from entrenched networks and patterns of problem drug and alcohol use. For the individual, they can inspire a difficult step to be taken on a recovery journey. More broadly, they help society to see people with substance misuse issues for the fellow citizens that they are.
The UK Recovery Walk achieves the necessary scale to raise visibility because of the fact it is a UK-wide event and many people make the effort to march and show solidarity with others from different communities. But does the Walk also manage to add value to host cities, this year Brighton, last year Cardiff? This may not be its core purpose of course, but it is worth asking the question of how we capitalise on these events locally.
My sense is that hosting the walk imparts a confidence, status and pride in the existing recovery communities in host cities, positioning them as national hubs of recovery and inspiring local people with substance misuse to begin and/or continue their recovery journey. But I fear this direct impact at the local level is fleeting, and walks have yet to break new ground in host cities in significant ways. This previous blog touches on how recovery in Brighton could become a genuinely community-wide concern, engaging and working with a much broader range of city-stakeholders.
What is the role of the walk in affecting this kind of engagement? Perhaps a city would need to repeat the walk annually, turning it into a regular fixture on the community calendar and embedding it (and by extension recovery) in the fabric of the place. But does a city by itself have the critical mass to sustain an annual walk, and what are the consequences for the policy of rotating the venue around different UK cities and the benefits this brings? Perhaps a smaller, but regular, visible local event (in recovery month), that grows over time and through repetition is the answer. Further, what is the best way to engage those city’s citizens, businesses, and other institutions currently not actively engaged in recovery? This is a challenge the RSA’s Whole Person Recovery programme has confronted in its work in West Kent in trying to establish local recovery communities.
Our experience is showing that a blended approach to local engagement is required with two connected strands. We have organised a cluster of debates, activities, workshops, and training events that are clearly positioned as being ‘about recovery’. We then work through existing networks and one to one engagement to bring in other stakeholders to these events from outside existing recovery communities. Similarly, we are developing a cluster of events and activities that are broadly about local community and economic development. This clusters starts from the broad concerns of many local stakeholders and ensures our service users are included in these co-productive networks to tackle common areas of concern and aspiration. This strand helps to surface commanilities and create bridges between seemingly unconnected people and organisations. Such a two-pronged strategy imparts both a shared understanding of recovery, and wider social and economic inclusion for those in recovery. All events are facilitated carefully to ensure they are empowering, inclusive, value-adding experiences for our service users, and for other local people.
But such approaches require significant work. Commissioners should ensure that these kinds of recovery capital strategies, that add value to broader policy domains, are included and supported (through funding and through the use of existing networks to local businesses and so on) in future commissioning.
This raises the question of the balance commissioners should strike between investing in services that generate personal recovery capital, and the extent to which they should foster wider social, community recovery capital that creates the spaces, networks and conditions for people to more easily sustain their recovery in their communities. This is one of the themes the RSA is exploring in a new project on Best Practice Commissioning in the substance misuse sector, but I will leave that for another blog. It also links to the question of how commissioners can use the Public Services (Social Value) Act to generate more local social value through public procurement. Again, that is for another blog – but this time, here’s one I prepared earlier.
It’s a commonplace that the world is ever-more well-connected. It’s less clear what we should do with this knowledge. The RSA has pioneered the use of social network analysis to understand how people relate to each other in their communities, and use that knowledge to help improve them. In this instalment of my week of blogs about how Fellows and staff at the RSA are creating social change, I’m going to talk about some of the implications of this work.
For us, understanding social networks isn’t just about seeing how a community works: it’s also a way of empowering people. If you have a better sense of how your social connections affect your life – for better and for worse – you can make more informed choices, and support those around you to do so too.
Our work with people in recovery from problematic drug and alcohol use is a powerful example of how the RSA is putting these ideas into practice. In partnership with the national treatment provider CRI and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, we’re working to help people break out of cycles of addiction, with the RSA’s Fellows in Kent at the centre of the work.
In their 2010 report Whole Person Recovery – a user-centred approach to problem drug use, Rebecca Daddow and Steve Broome from the RSA’s Action and Research Centre made the case that successful recovery from drug and alcohol problems involves a range of reinforcing factors – and that one of the most important is a strong network of support. (An RSA Fellow, Tony Hodgson, was instrumental in developing the commissioning framework for recovery set out in the report, and a wider group of Fellows advised the project throughout.)
The insights from this work animate the work Rebecca now is leading in West Kent, and her team started with the aim of addressing the barriers to a healthy, happy, and supportive community which includes both people in recovery and those who are not. The original aim was to create recovery alliances: local community groups that would connect people in recovery to others, and especially to RSA Fellows.
In practice, this approach faced some challenges. In particular, Rebecca and her team found that asking volunteers to join a loose alliance wasn’t specific enough; this was particularly the case with Fellows, who are keen to give their time but want to work on something where they can make a specific and tangible contribution. In response to this, the team’s focus is shifting to strengthening networks in a more one-to-one basis, and they’re establishing a timebank to help Fellows and people in recovery give and receive services, and thereby meet each others’ needs.
It’s an object lesson in the challenges that come with making the best possible use of volunteers, but this new approach aims to provide specific support within the network. One recent example is that after being contacted by a key worker the team have been able to identify an RSA Fellow who may be able to provide relevant career advice to their client.
You can find out more about the RSA’s work on recovery on our website. If you’d like to stay informed, or if you live locally and would like to participate in the time banking scheme, email email@example.com to receive the monthly Whole Person Recovery newsletter. And if you’re interested in finding out more about our work on social network analysis, the RSA’s social network analysis expert Gaia Marcus will be participating in a Twitter Q&A on Friday between 2pm and 3pm – do follow @theRSAorg or check out #RSAFriday for more information.
Sam Thomas is the RSA’s project engagement manager. Follow @iamsamthomas on Twitter.
Guest blog from the Library Team
The Every Day Lives of Recovering Heroin Users is not like other studies. It tells the story, or stories of people in recovery, their struggles, fears and hopes, and avoids impersonal statistics.
As a joint effort between academics Joanne Neale (Oxford Brookes), Sarah Nettleton (York) and Lucy Pickering (Glasgow) and produced by the RSA, the book complements and informs the RSA Recovery project’s work in West Kent.
It’s the culmination of a series of interviews with people in recovery, setting out first-hand the difficulties of getting over heroin use. As Steve Broome mentions in his introduction, the most interesting detail to emerge from these interviews is a simple desire to feel ‘normal’. And what is normal? Washing your hair, going to the shops, playing football, meeting friends, relaxing with family, all that. As one of the interviewees says:
“Brushing my teeth didn’t happen. I’ve got teeth missing all over my mouth, they look disgusting… I didn’t wash my hair… I used to have a shower when I really, really had to. [I] was a complete skank. That’s what the heroin does to you.”
Arranged thematically, the book allows you to dip in and out of it. Not only is it a great resource for those working in drug rehabilitation, as people repeatedly mentioned at the book launch, it can provide inspiration for everyone.
You can find The Every Day Lives of Recovering Heroin Users in the Fellows’ library. Other titles in the library on this topic include:
Heroin Century by Tom Cornwath & Ian Smith
Drug Treatment: What Works? by Philip Bean & Teresa Nemitz
Heroin Addiction and the British System by John Strang & Michael Gossop
Drugs: Cultures, Controls and Everyday Life by Nigel South
To find out more about the RSA recovery project why not check out their blog or their recent papers ‘Drugs – facing facts’, http://www.thersa.org/projects/past-projects/drugs-commission/drugs-report