Learning for life

Richard JohnsonEducation and training are often discarded when substance use takes over. Richard Johnson describes how ANA’s new programme is helping clients to reconnect

ANA was founded in 1998 for people who have become reliant on drugs and/or alcohol and provides residential treatment centres in Hampshire. As part of our philosophy of abstinence, we have developed a toolkit to strengthen resilience and recovery capital among our diverse client group.

We developed an approach to education with a local further education provider, Highbury College in Portsmouth – a partnership that was recognised as good practice by the NTA in 2010 – and have been building on it since.

Over the last two years we have been working closely with the college to have our second stage treatment programme, called our Road to Recovery course (R2R), accredited as a qualification in its own right. It combines therapeutic inputs with a life skills programme, delivered through a series of seminars and workshops.

As part of the course, clients are expected to complete workbooks and, although we make provision for those who cannot or prefer not to use the written word to express themselves, most do choose to use them. We had all of our workbooks retyped and printed and our lecture notes and presentational aids revamped, including power points, lesson plans and hand-outs, and put everything in individual folders for each client to be given upon admission.

The workbooks are added to other materials to compile an individual portfolio for each client. In building these portfolios, we realised just how many educational skills our clients acquire throughout the process; it soon became clear that many of our clients had become more self-aware and had developed better interpersonal, problem solving and practical skills since going through treatment.

We tentatively showed the client portfolio to the Community Education Department at Highbury College and they enthusiastically confirmed that the portfolio had significant educational value, resulting in their accreditation. The college has been enormously supportive, visiting ANA to train the R2R staff and counsellors. Clients are also invited on a tour of the college, in preparation for further education after our second stage.

So far, 12 clients have successfully completed the R2R course and received an accreditation, through their own recovery, from the college – an enormous achievement for each of them. The course is accredited at level one, which means that many clients will not have to undertake an access course when starting college, giving them back a year of their lives in study time.

The course is helping to break down barriers to education for clients and equip them with additional skills for life. Access to education was one of the key priorities in the government’s 2010 drug strategy, and is likely to continue to be so. The qualification makes recovery tangible; it demonstrates what clients have to do, what they have achieved and what they are capable of doing in the future. It also supports the concept of ‘better than well’ and has a very great impact on client recovery capital and self-esteem.

Rosanna O’Connor, director of alcohol, drugs and tobacco at Public Health England commented: ‘There is a very significant need for better education, training and employment support for people in drug and alcohol treatment, whether in the community or in residential rehab.

‘This project, being developed by ANA, is an excellent example of how some treatment providers are taking the initiative, providing people with tailored educational support, leading to qualifications, skills and the essential confidence needed to access employment.’

The next stage is to seek national accreditation and invite other treatment providers to have their programmes accredited. We feel that the initiative facilitates very positive community reintegration through study and education, and helps people take confident strides towards the job market.

Richard Johnson is CEO of ANA Treatment Centres and ANA Works, www.anatreatmentcentres.com