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.
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
This week I read an interesting blog post by Toby Seddon entitled ‘The politics of recovery’. The article draws the comparison between previous crime reduction and harm reduction strategies that have now given way to a more recovery orientated agenda in formulating modern drug policy. The tone of this piece is one of scepticism outlining that continuity is often king, and that recent policies have much in common with their predecessors on a strategic level. So where does this leave the implementation of a recovery agenda on the front line, and more importantly in our local communities?
Debates around Harm Reduction vs. Abstinence have raged on for many a year, with some holding the opinion that a harm reduction approach can be divisive in terms of effective recovery (Harm reduction vs. recovery: the false dichotomy). However, could it not be argued that recovery including (for some) abstinence is the ultimate harm reduction tool? The effective delivery of recovery initiatives in the community, and a culture change at the grass roots of treatment service delivery could tip the balance. If we are to achieve a ‘Paradigm Shift’ in the long term development of drug policy in the UK, then a combined effort of government, treatment services and the community will be required to put some meat on the bones of a recovery agenda.
Initial feedback from service users in Maidstone is very positive and there is a genuine excitement about the prospect of some of the programmes that are on offer here. Many have stated that this is the first time that they feel ‘the system’ really recognises the needs of those that are using it. In reality it is still early days but the initial projection for Whole Person Recovery in Maidstone is good, so could this be the preverbal ‘long shot that might just work’ for the government in regard to shaping a better and more inclusive society for all in the future?
On this, the 1st of June, I would like to wish all those on their recovery journey as well as those supporting it, a very Happy Recovery Month!
Martyn (our Maidstone Recovery Community Organiser) and I have been setting up a programme of events across West Kent (in collaboration with CRi and the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust) to bring communities around the 3 hubs together to celebrate recovery and raise awareness that people can and do recover.
These events are part of the Public Events Programme we have created within our Whole Person Recovery Programme. They include activities for service users and the wider recovery community, for the friends and families of those on their recovery journeys, and for the wider community.
In Maidstone we have a Peer Support Awareness Day which has brought together the well-known 12-step groups such as AA, NA and CA with other community organisations and peer support groups, in one place to talk to service users and their families about what support they can get in and around Maidstone. This will be followed by a fantastic free community day in a local park with local bands, performance artists, BBQ, face-painting, balloon launch and speakers.
In Tonbridge we are de-camping to a local park for a community picnic with games and [hopefully] sunshine. This will be followed by a community day in Tunbridge Wells with a balloon launch, recovery tree, information desk, performance art and refreshments.
In Gravesend we are setting up home in an empty shop right on the high street thanks to 3Space. Here we will have all sorts of group activities, arts and crafts, information and awareness days, and a volunteering fair.
These are just some of the ways we’re celebrating recovery through June… We’d love to hear what you’re doing.
Follow us on Twitter @RSArecovery or #WPRrecoverymonth to keep up to date with the opportunities to get more involved and to see how it progresses over the month.
Having recently been appointed as the new Recovery Community Organiser in Maidstone, I thought it about time to introduce myself. I have been working in frontline substance misuse services for the past 7 years and my experience has carried me across a broad spectrum of service delivery, from therapeutic group work to prescribed treatment and everything in between.
It seems that for the most part of my career, trends around holistic treatment have come and gone. With the UK and Europe currently in the grips of austerity, ingenuity is required to deliver more innovative projects tackling social issues with a focus on value for money. But how can this be done without sacrificing the quality of what will potentially help people maintain a happy and positive lifestyle in the future?
As we move further away from the simple concepts of a harm or crime reduction philosophy and ever closer to a more person centred approach to recovery as a means of addressing problematic drug and alcohol use, this is precisely the right time for the implementation of Whole Person Recovery in communities across certain areas of the country. What is required is a radical change in thinking around how substance misuse can be managed at a local level, and difficult economic times can often breed the most viable solutions and outcomes. The RSA Whole Person Recovery: A user-centred systems approach to problem drug use report offers just that, bringing together on the ground bonafide research, with the opportunity to shape the very fabric of how the community as a whole can better support people both now and in the future.
So how will this work in Maidstone? Well this is an exercise not only in joined up thinking but joined up doing. It will involve putting people and their experiences at the heart of the community, breaking down potential barriers to recovery. By building this foundation of support, individuals and families can move away from stigma and feel more in harmony with their local environment and the people within it. What is required is a move away from the focus on drug and alcohol problems and shift to a more productive and positive approach to dealing with issues that affect lifestyle choice.
Due to continued negative media and criminal association, those who experience substance misuse issues have been marginalised to areas of society that make it difficult for them to contribute or feel the benefit of being part of a wide and dynamic community. It is time to recognise that the issues relating to addiction can often be symptomatic factors such as depression, bereavement or the need for escape from difficult social situations, and are not exclusively experienced by substance users alone. By involving RSA Fellows, community and business leaders from around the borough to invest their time and energy we intend to build a ‘Recovery Alliance’, which can support and recognise the skills of individuals to prolong and sustain recovery. It is a very exciting project that will challenge the stigma of problematic drug and alcohol use and put recovery at the forefront of community thinking. I for one am very excited to be a part of it.
This is an exciting week. Not only did I become an aunty for the first time, but we also announced 3 full-time paid intern positions to support our Whole Person Recovery programme of work across West Kent.
While I would like to gush over my new nephew here, I won’t. Instead I will focus on the internship opportunities before us. Interns will be asked to support the RSA Recovery Community Organisers at each of the programme sites (Maidstone, Tonbridge and Gravesend) in taking forward a full programme of activities throughout Recovery Month in June.
The fun doesn’t end there. In addition to supporting Recovery Month activities, interns will also be helping to establish a befriending scheme, a local Recovery Alliance, and the RSA Recovery Bank.
These roles require dynamic individuals with a passion for bringing communities together, supporting individuals in recovery and capable of thinking on their feet. These are full-time positions between end of May/June – July 2012.
To find out more about the internships and how to apply visit the Internship pages here.
It’s Week 4 of the RSA’s most recent expedition into the world of recovery which sees us taking forward our vision of a Whole Person Recovery System across West Kent. The last few weeks have come with the usual ups and downs linked to changing providers, TUPE procedures and settling into new buildings, but the momentum is growing and it’s all starting to take shape.
Yesterday was the first get together of service users in Tunbridge Wells to discuss what they would like to see within the Everyday Activities Programme. This is one of the set pieces that the RSA’s Recovery Community Organisers will be taking forward around each of the three main hubs (Maidstone, Gravesend and Tonbridge).
The Everyday Activities Programme is everyday stuff done every day. It’s about opening up opportunities for people in recovery to fill their time, have a laugh, learn some news skills, share their skills and meet other people in their local community. There will be activities to join morning and afternoon and at those times that can be the most difficult: evenings and weekends. The activities will be run by people in recovery, local community members, and practitioners and will be out in the community, away from the treatment centres.
The ideas generated from the discussion yesterday were plentiful. They ranged from boxing to cooking to hair and nails. Paintballing got a mention too. But by the end of the fevered brainstorm the group decided that the thing they most wanted to do was get to know each other. Simply have a place to go for a few hours every week where they knew they could relax, have a cuppa, play some games and get to know the people that they have been bumping into for years in the treatment centre waiting rooms. With a solid foundation that this could generate, the group felt they could do anything.
So that’s what we’re going to do in Tunbridge Wells. For now. I’m meeting a group in Maidstone tomorrow… I wonder what they will want to get started?
If you live or work in West Kent and would like to know more about the Whole Person Recovery programme and how you can get involved please contact Rebecca.email@example.com