Be The Change

Why should you be at the national service user involvement conference this year? DDN answers your questions  


What is ‘Be the Change’?

Be the Change is the theme of this year’s annual national service user involvement conference. Created in 2007 by DDN, in partnership with The Alliance, the event has grown each year and now also partners with the National Users Network (NUN) and the UK Recovery Federation (UKRF) to make sure it’s truly representative of all service users, whatever their current circumstances. It is the biggest one-day conference in the UK drugs field and dedicated entirely to improving the treatment experience, aftercare, welfare, employment opportunities and rights of people who use drug and alcohol treatment services.

Why should I be there?

The conference brings crucial issues to the table, addresses your concerns and invites you to question the speakers and have your say. This year, more than ever, service users need to know what’s happening as drug and alcohol treatment becomes part of the public health landscape. We cover the entire event for a special issue of DDN, seen by politicians and policymakers, and make your voice count. 

The programme also features practical workshops, sharing essential skills and knowledge, and a highly popular service user group exhibition, where groups can display material about themselves and their activities. We also have live music, therapy rooms, Tai Chi and an enterprise zone. Perhaps above all, the event has become known as a superb networking opportunity for colleagues all over the country, inspiring new service user groups and initiatives. 

Where is it?

Once again the conference is in Birmingham, the most accessible venue for people travelling from all over the UK. It’s at The National Motorcycle Museum, a truly flexible space with full disabled access. All areas of the event are in close proximity to each other and refreshments are served all day, including a delicious hot lunch. Delegates receive free entry to the Motorcycle Museum after 3.30pm!

How do I get there?

By car – The National Motorcycle Museum is located on the J6 Island of the M42, directory opposite the NEC. There is free parking for cars, minibuses – and of course motorbikes!

By rail – The closest station is Birmingham International. The station is less than five minutes drive from the venue and free shuttle buses will run from 8.30am on the morning of the conference.

By plane – Birmingham International Airport is less than two miles from the venue.

 If you want to stay nearby on the night before or after the conference, you can get a discount at The Manor Hotel Meriden –; tel 01676 522 735. Quote CJ Wellings for a special rate of £80 including vat, bed and full English breakfast. A shuttle bus will run from the hotel from 9am on the morning of the conference.

How can I get funding?

The intention of this conference is that all service users can attend and, like their colleagues who work in services, do not pay out of their own pocket. Most service user places are paid for by DAATs or local services, who seize this opportunity for better liaison. We offer places to service users (£90 + vat) and professionals (£145 + vat) as many organisations like to send both members of the treatment partnership. 

 If you are having trouble obtaining funding from your DAAT or local treatment provider, please get in touch with the team at DDN. We will suggest routes to funding, and may be able to provide a bursary place where this is impossible. We want to make sure nobody is excluded from the event because of inability to pay.

 Can we have a stand?

We hope all service user groups coming as delegates will take up the offer of a free stand. The service user group exhibition is a fantastic way to showcase the work you are doing in your area, and to help you to network with other groups from around the country. Just call the DDN team on 01233 636 188 and we will make sure you have everything you need.

 If your commercial organisation or charity would like to exhibit, please contact or call 01233 636 188. We have exhibition and sponsorship opportunities for all budgets.

 How do I book places?

You can book a delegate place, either by using the booking form within this issue of DDN, online at or by calling 01233 636 188. 

What’s on the programme 

9.00-10am: Registration and refreshments

10.00-11.15am: Opening session, chaired by Alex Boyt. Featuring Lee Collingham, Service User Activist: Challenging stigma to gain access to healthcare, The Department of Health’s deputy director of alcohol and drugs, Chris Heffer, on the place of substance misuse treatment in the public health framework; GP Steve Brinksman’s view of how drug and alcohol treatment should fit into the new landscape; and an update from the NTA as they fold their remit into Public Health England. Followed by questions from the floor.

11.15-11.45am: Refreshments

11.45-12.45: Practical workshops, focusing on essential information and skills. Choose from: 

* Employment and enterprise – Mhairi Doyle MBE, former social inclusion manager at Jobcentre Plus North West, gives advice on back-to-work support. Amar Lodhia, chief executive of TSBC (The Small Business Consultancy, which supports people from disadvantaged backgrounds to become entrepreneurs) shows you how to go about running your own business.

* The right to treatment – Steve Brinksman GP will advise on medically assisted recovery and communicating with health professionals in an informed way. Francis Cook from The National User Network (NUN) looks at getting the right healthcare; and there will be advice on dealing with services’ requests for reducing your script.

* Setting up and managing a group – Kevin Jaffray talks about setting up SUSSED (Service User Strategy for Self-Empowerment and Development). Peter Yarwood from LUF (Lancashire User Forum/Red Rose Recovery) advises on fundraising for group survival. 

* Asset-based recovery – A rousing, interactive session led by Alistair Sinclair of the UKRF on maximising the recovery potential of individuals and communities. 

* How to engage – Mark Brown from One in Four magazine will offer inspiration from the mental health field on communicating effectively. Nigel Brunsdon from HIT and Injecting Advice gives latest tips and tricks on social networking.

12.45pm-2.00pm: Lunch and activities, including – service user and provider exhibitions; workforce and social enterprise zone; alternative therapy zone; open meetings with NUN and other organisations; live music from The Shenanigans; open mic ‘Soapbox’ area; drop-in suggestion wall; video booth; harm reduction café.

2.00pm-3.10pm: Interactive session, chaired by Carole Sharma. Several short service user (individual and group) presentations, demonstrating inspiring personal stories of change and recovery. Microphones will then be passed to delegates from the floor to tell the conference what change means to them.

3.10pm: Closing address: Activist and campaigner Andrea Efthimiou-Mordaunt on the need to lobby and be heard. 

3.30pm: Finish and free entry to the Motorbike Museum.

Free shuttle buses will run to the station from 3.30pm onwards.

Full programme & speaker biographies at

See you there!