The Achieve partnership’s cross-sector approach is making a real difference to people’s lives in the Greater Manchester area, says Dr Jonathan Dewhurst.
Achieve is the community alcohol and drug recovery service for Bolton, Bury, Salford and Trafford, led by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH). We provide support and treatment to people who are struggling with addictions, to help them on their recovery journey.
The Achieve contract was awarded for Bolton, Salford and Trafford in January 2018, with Bury joining in September 2019. This was the first cluster contract outside of London, enabling the maximisation of resources at a time of disinvestment and efficiencies across the sector. Working with non-statutory providers also meant access to a whole voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) community with which to partner.
We know that most people with addiction problems have been through traumatic experiences, and experience associated mental and physical health problems – alongside other social problems such as homelessness. It is vital that we see the whole person, hear their story, and help to break down their barriers by supporting them in all areas of need. Because if someone is struggling with their mental health or housing situation, for example, it will have a huge impact on their ability to recover from addiction.
Led by GMMH, the Achieve partnership brings together cross-sector organisations to deliver a holistic range of services to support recovery. This includes support for a range of health and social needs, such as psychological support, peer mentoring, housing, employment, training and education, social groups and mutual aid.
As a consultant addiction psychiatrist, it’s extremely valuable to be able to refer the service users I work with to this rich and wide-ranging network of support, at any point throughout receiving the treatments and psychological interventions that I offer, and beyond. An external evaluation report, undertaken by independent research and consultancy organisation SQW, found that this innovative, collaborative approach is ‘overwhelmingly positive’, and successful in responding to ‘the multifaceted and complex needs individuals present with’.
One key aspect of the partnership that was praised in the report was the ‘Achieve asset fund’. Through the fund, voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations across Bolton, Salford and Trafford have been able to apply for up to £5,000 in grant funding to deliver projects with a focus on recovery. The report found that the fund was ‘a valuable aspect of the Achieve offer in supporting the availability of recovery services On 13 July, we announced the positive findings of the report at a celebration event at the Lowry in Salford. We heard from a range of partners about their community support projects, and people who have directly benefited stood up and told their stories. It was inspirational to hear about the grassroots activity taking place, and the huge impact this is having. Here are just a few of the case studies that were shared:
Stars and Stitches
Stars and Stitches is a community interest company based in Bolton, run by trainee therapists, and supporting people to live their lives to their full potential and overcome their difficulties through community arts, sport and environmental activities. Through funding provided via the asset fund, Stars and Stitches ran several projects for people recovering from addictions. Projects included:
- A fashion show – featuring headdresses made by the group from recycled materials, and Bollywood dancing – which was filmed and exhibited at the P5 Gallery at Bolton station.
- Wellbeing sessions involving activities such as needle felting and ‘junk journaling’, a process of creating a personal journal from recycled and creative materials.
- Creative art sessions at Honeysuckle Lodge, a women’s mental health inpatient unit.
One participant said, ‘At my very first session I was really nervous, but everyone was so friendly. It made me feel seen to meet people with similar experiences as me. I am really proud of myself – my headdress turned out amazing. I really liked the dancing and getting to see everyone on the final day.’
Those on the Margins of Society (THOMAS)
THOMAS delivers a range of recovery-focused services which take people from within prison or hospital, through detox and residential rehabilitation, into community-based support. Susan* was referred to THOMAS via the Achieve partnership. At the time, she had a 13-year history of harmful alcohol use. She had a reluctance to engage with support offered and had withdrawn in the past. THOMAS admitted her to their residential rehabilitation accommodation. There, a structured timetable of groups and activities created a therapeutic community where Susan could work with herself and others on her recovery.
After some initial reluctance, Susan began to grow in confidence to voice her opinions, challenging herself and others. This enabled her to see the benefit of having supportive relationships. She developed new, fulfilling hobbies, such as baking and art, and she developed coping strategies and new behaviours to support her in all aspects of her life.
Susan’s husband received carer support from Achieve, and together they discussed her ongoing needs following discharge. Her relationships with her sons also improved. Susan reported that living at THOMAS broke down the stigma of addiction for her. She was able to develop a strong support system that enabled her to continue on in her recovery.
She has now taken on a peer mentor role at THOMAS, offering support and guidance to others with similar experiences. She is positive about her future, and plans to continue to live a fulfilling life practicing abstinence.
*Name has been changed to protect anonymity.
Sow the City
Sow the City is a social enterprise, based in Moss Side, Manchester. It works across Greater Manchester to empower communities to grow and live more sustainability.
In 2022, it received funding to develop the gardens of two THOMAS sites. The benefits of nature are well known, and include improved mood, reduced anxiety, improved sleep quality, better cognitive performance, and increased energy.
Throughout the project, Sow the City ran therapeutic gardening sessions with residents, teaching them to grow their own food and improve their horticultural knowledge and skills. Residents worked together on the gardens – which are now a pleasant area to tend, relax and socialise – and some have gone on volunteer at other Sow the City community gardening projects across the region.
- Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (lead)
- Big Life Group
- Early Break
- Great Places Housing
- Intuitive Thinking Skills
- Salford CVS
- Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust (part of Northern Care Alliance)
- Those on the Margins of Society (THOMAS)