“Peer led recovery allows and encourages difference in diversity, a multitude of ideas, beliefs and proven techniques that will help individuals from all walks of life, belief systems, faiths and backgrounds. Peer led recovery isn’t a one size fits all approach, its person centered, individual and caring, which is why it is the future for addiction support.” Adam Mitchell, Director, SoberWorx
At the beginning of March 2017, I received an email from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG)on Complex Needs and Dual Diagnosis, which was compiling a report on recovery in the community and was requesting submissions of evidence. I was about a month into my role as Recovery Coordinator and had just written a short piece for this blog about The Edge Café, so I edited and expanded it and sent it in. The report was launched on Monday 22 January 2018 and I had the honour of being invited to The Houses of Parliament for the event. It was a very proud moment to see The Edge listed in the report as the first case study.
The press release states, “People Powered Recovery highlights how those with multiple needs can get their lives back with the support of community volunteers who have recovered from similar issues, such as drug and alcohol dependency. They can help others make the difficult step into treatment or even get a job.
Addiction and mental illness are still hugely stigmatised with people frequently not receiving the support they need because services are often focused on problems, not on individuals.
However, People Powered Recovery documents examples from around the UK of how a difference can be made by ‘people power’ where individuals come together to support others. This includes community cafes where people recovering from substance misuse can feel safe, or GP-led wellbeing centres staffed by individuals who can draw on their own life experience.”
Facts and figures
The statistics are difficult to dispute. The cost to society of those with severe and multiple disadvantages in life, such as drug misuse combined with homelessness, could be more than £10bn a year (Lankelly Chase Foundation, 2015). Up to 70% of people in drug services and 86% of alcohol-service users report mental health problems (Public Health England, 2014). Four out of five prisoners who are drug dependent have two additional mental health problems (NHS Confederation, 2009). More than half (54%) of suicides occur among patients with a history of alcohol or drug misuse (National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, 2015).
The report was researched and the launch coordinated brilliantly by Turning Point. Lord Adebowale, who hosted the event, is their Chief Executive Officer. I participated in this event to help smash the stigma of addiction and recovery but found my own prejudices about Lords challenged by his dreadlocks, broad smile and extensive knowledge of the subject. There were powerful presentations about peer supported recovery. Andy Meakin, Director of Voices of Stoke, spoke knowledgeably and with understanding about their ‘Expert Citizen’ peer mentor and advocacy program. Recovery Republic were represented by Lisa Hill and Ian Walton, whose passion was evident when they spoke about their amazing Wellbeing Centre in Heywood, Lancashire and their inspirational founder and director, Dr Michael Taylor.
I particularly connected with the presentation by Tim Sampey, CEO of Build on Belief. A statement on their website reads, “BoB says nobody is beyond help.” Tim spoke with great understanding about BoB’s work supporting people in recovery while they rebuild their lives. When speaking about their volunteer programme, his mention of a need for a new approach when dealing with relapse struck a particular chord with me. BoB’s evidence states, “[There should be a] willingness to commission small scale peer-led projects over a timescale large enough to allow for experimentation and organic growth, while accepting the risk of failure will be far greater than would be the case in the commissioning of other larger service providers.” I hope to be having a conversation with Tim for this blog when he visits The Edge in a few weeks’ time.
Hope for the future
I spend my weekdays sitting in The Edge talking recovery. I speak to people in all stages, from those in the early days, full of fear and hope, who have been signposted to me from treatment services to the regular attendees of our twice weekly Edge Support Group, some with significant clean-time. I speak to families and friends of addicts. I talk to professionals from the Drug and Alcohol Service. All of this is on a local, community level, so it was bizarre to walk through the corridors of power, to represent The Edge Café at this national event. The Edge team is bursting with pride about our mention in the report and being represented at the Parliamentary event. It is a remarkable achievement for our little project, after only one year.
I am both impressed and encouraged by this report and everyone involved in its production. I am determined that The Edge will be a part of supporting any further work by the APPG; I believe we define the terms of a peer support recovery project. I am also arranging to visit one of Build on Belief’s projects in London, as I believe their work is inspiring. However, I believe my true place is my seat by the window at The Edge Café, available to talk. Why not pop in for a chat some time?