A safe space

The threat of COVID-19 has prompted Phoenix Futures to make their rehabs even more of a sanctuary, as Liam Ward explains.

Liam Ward residential marketing manager for Phoenix Futures
Liam Ward is residential marketing manager for Phoenix Futures

The coronavirus outbreak has drawn attention to some of the most vulnerable groups in our society. Those most at risk include the elderly and those with existing health conditions, which includes people with substance misuse issues. Here at Phoenix Futures Residential Services we are open and continuing to accept admissions. Rehabs are already safe places for people with more complex needs and we have reviewed our practices to ensure we adapt to the specific challenges of COVID-19.

Our services provide an ideal environment for those whose risk in the community has been heightened by current events. A recent survey found that 92 per cent of our service users identify as having experienced emotional or mental health issues, with 67 per cent receiving a diagnosis for their condition. Forty per cent of our treatment population are recognised as having a physical disability, and 55 per cent have experienced homelessness, with one in five presenting as no-fixed-abode upon admission to our services.

For those with housing instabilities, mental or physical health conditions and substance misuse issues we can offer a safe environment with all aspects of care accessible under one roof. The residential services offer 24-hour staffing and peer support in a safe, abstinent environment.

‘It has been a really difficult few weeks for everyone,’ says Leanne Smullen-Bethell, head of house for our National Specialist Family Service. ‘Staff have had to change the way they live their lives and in turn, so have our service users. This has all happened at such a pace it has been hard to absorb, but we have supported each other to carry on through this.’

Adapting the programme

The programme is being adapted to further enhance safety, while taking on board the daily government guidance. ‘We have had to decrease the size of groups and workshops so as to promote social distancing, and limit individuals going out of the house for everyone’s safety,’ says Leanne. ‘One of the saddest things we have had to do is to stop all visitors to the service. This is an incredibly difficult decision when parents are looking forward to seeing children, but we all understand this is about protecting one another and saving lives.’

‘The community have been exercising using online resources and DVDs and making the most of the beautiful gardens we are privileged to have here at the family service,’ she adds. ‘They have also been able to speak with family and loved ones using video calls, which has boosted spirits.’

These innovative responses are not limited to the family service, with each of our Glasgow, Wirral and Sheffield sites also adapting to provide the best possible experience for those placed with us. With the benefits of fresh air and exercise on people’s mental health widely documented, our large grounds allow us to practise social distancing with ease, while enabling residents to take their daily exercise.


Allocated timings for phone usage have been extended to ensure loved ones are accessible and we have increased access to internet messaging services, books, games and use of iPads and televisions to give a healthy balance between the demanding nature of the programme and the need for some personal time too. In Glasgow, our service has been lent a number of musical instruments by Vox Liminis, and in Sheffield we have extended our Recovery through Nature initiative (DDN, July/August 2019, page 17) to provide more regular and engaging content throughout the programme.

By providing a safe space for these vulnerable people, we are supporting the services in our communities who face an increased demand for their support. Rehab has always provided a comprehensive package of support for the most vulnerable, and continues to be a valuable resource for helping reduce the risk to individuals and their families throughout this difficult period.

‘During times like these it’s as imperative as ever to ensure individuals who need residential treatment can still access our services,’ says Dave Potts, head of operations for the residential services. ’We are, as always, very pleased to be in a position to help those who would be at risk in the community.’



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