Going local

Over the past couple of months Collective Voice has held four ‘roadshow’ type events around the country. The purpose of these was threefold:

  • bringing together local systems to explore how they are dealing with the long-term challenges of austerity, localism and changing client need
  • sharing Collective Voice priorities for next year
  • discussing issues of universal national relevance such as dis/investment, partnerships and political leadership.

These snapshots were fascinating. In Halifax we met at the impressive Basement Recovery Project (BRP) to discuss how Calderdale’s local system was coping. Admirably well it seems. Its approach is — to invoke a conceptual approach rightly popular at the moment — clearly placed-based. Speakers stressed the importance of local partners, whether provider, commissioner or leader in recovery living locally. If you are neighbours and members of a shared community you are liberated from a more transactional type of commissioner/provider/service user relationship. It really matters.

“Basement House” – a proud recovery portal on a Halifax high-street

The approach in Calderdale is built on collaboration and takes the long view of how change happens, and how recovery is nurtured. BRP acts as a visible, accessible ‘front-door’ to the local system. Anyone interested in recovery can come in and get what they need, whether that’s a cup of tea and a friendly chat or a referral into formal treatment. Inside there’s a kitchen and lots of space for meetings, groups and socialising. It feels like a community not a service.

There has been a real focus on place-based approaches in the last few years and I think they can be useful theoretical tools for the drug and alcohol world given the close links of addiction and recovery to community and connection. The Lankelly Chase Foundation has adopted place as one of its ongoing action inquiries and published a historical review of place based approaches. NPC focus on it too.

In Nottingham the same sense of collaboration and systems thinking was apparent in the partnership response to the challenges posed by increasing need and decreasing resource. Our hosts Double Impact work in close partnership with local public health commissioners, a larger national provider of clinical services, local family and young people support organisation Jigsaw and other voluntary and statutory providers to provide that seamless, person-centred service we seem to talk about all the time.

Much of its work is delivered through an academy model which effectively uses structured pathways into volunteering and employment as part of the ongoing recovery journey. This provides meaning for the learners, develops a peer group, helps accrue skills and ultimately boosts the local economy through increased employment and subsequent taxation.

As part of my Clore Social Leadership programme I’ll be collaborating with NPC in the new year on how place and systems shape, and can be used to shape, local treatment and recovery landscapes — watch this space!

The two London events spanned the entire city so were necessarily wider in scope, which makes identifying local trends harder. However Tim Sampey, Chief Executive of Build On Belief (BOB) gave a powerful presentation at the first event. BOB is a charity which runs peer-led, open access services across London. Its USP is that it’s open at weekends so provides a place for people to access in their own time and in their own way. At some point I’d like to ask Tim more about what it’s like leading a community driven organisation spanning a metropolis like London, with its various geographies not to mention many health and social inequalities.

I’d recommend reading Tim’s brilliant account of how he started on his journey to becoming CE of BOB, it’s both insightful and very funny.

The three main challenges raised by attendees were:

  • dealing with disinvestment (an average of 27% has been lost to substance use budgets across England in the past four years)
  • developing effective collaboration with other providers, recovery communities and health and social care structures
  • adapting to the changing and growing need of the people our sector serves.

We’ll be publishing a brief report in the next month or so collating what was shared with us at the four events.

So what does this all mean for national priorities and for our work next year? Well you may have noted that there has been an election recently. As ever this has brought change — and change usually brings opportunity. Reflecting what over 120 people told us at the events — as well more general observations from the sector — we’ll be publishing both our three challenges for the new Government and our plans for 2020 shortly. Watch this space.

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