Letters, May 2016

M`rch 2016 coverBull at a gate

The ‘raging bull’ cover (March issue and Colin Miller-Hoare’s letter, April, page 12) was exactly what was needed to express the current state of the sector – a perfect expression of the passion and dedication that is evident, and indeed needed, to maintain our position in the current arena.

Personally I’m ‘disgusted and appalled’ at the politically endorsed daylight robbery that is occurring in the sector; the tender war that has resulted in so much valuable time being transferred from positive interactions with clients towards survival to provide any service at all! It’s a sad race to the bottom, with the service users caught in the crossfire.

Provision has become an assault course for the most dedicated workers and they are being diverted from their primary purpose, adhering to unfit policies against most of their wishes – which strips them of pride of purpose.

Also, let’s look at the comment from someone who is an expert on recovery: it was an attack on a team that has a long, successful history in representing the most complex of issues in the sector, relentlessly keeping a balance that is an accomplishment all in its own right. It was judgmental, and based on a picture that is open to perception. Colin, there is no evidence to support the reasoning that has brought you to the end result of having an opinion that is neither founded in truth, nor relevant to the providers of this wonderful magazine or John Bird himself.

I am actually shocked that this kind of retort could come from an individual who obviously doesn’t understand that recovery has a basic principle not to have an opinion on outside issues. You have shown contempt prior to investigation and it has not served you well. John was raised in an orphanage, spent much of his youth homeless and in and out of prison, where he got minimal education but expanded on that on release to set up a little printer shop.

In 1995 he launched the Big Issue, which a number of street homeless rely on for finances to secure food and a bed for the night. He decided to forego running for mayor of London to launch a campaign that focused on social justice to promote inclusion of the homeless and other vulnerable individuals and help build a bridge to normal living, enhancing their recovery on many levels.

Had this been a ‘raging bull’ portrayed on the cover, my view is that it would have been more than justified and aimed at the real perpetrators who pose a threat to recovery, and I’m as sure everyone in the room would have been on the same page. It was a passionate, dedicated, well-placed call to arms that incited an equally passionate, dedicated and well-placed response in unity.

So I see a deserving portrait of a very productive conference, aimed at inclusion and challenging society’s views to forge a sustainable pathway through the quagmire of stigma and discrimination, and, share every emotion evident on John’s face, as did everyone there. I feel that the educational need does not lie at this end.

PS: I am honoured to have made your step one and look forward to your amends – failing which I feel you need to revise your programme, as you have not fully grasped step one. Much respect, Colin.

Kevin Jaffray, Futuremoves peer advocacy and training


All the rage

I disagree with the negative comments about the cover of your magazine featuring John Bird. I think it represents his own struggle to survive against the odds and to provide a service for homeless people.

His speech was described as rousing, and his essential message seemed positive – everyone has skills and their life experiences can be used in a constructive way.

Mark Reid, the peer worker present, stated in his article: ‘he showed how he can apply his philosophy to all people in recovery’ (DDN, March, page 11).

In my experience, service users have to be passionate and determined to help set up services. When we had our 20th anniversary at FIRM (Fun in Recovery Management) he was one of the speakers we wanted to have as an example of someone who could use his negative life experiences to help promote a dignified service for homeless people.

John Gordon-Smith, Chair, FIRM Committee


Further disgust

I’d just like to profess myself disgusted and appalled by the fact that Colin Miller-Hoare was disgusted and appalled by the sight of John Bird shouting on the cover of your March issue.

His absurd statement that ‘there is no room for aggression in recovery’ not only infantilises people but makes the ludicrous assumption that anyone who’s experienced homelessness and addiction could possibly be traumatised by a picture of a shouty man.

His views are depressingly symptomatic of the current censorious drift towards the ideological policing of debate, with its attendant ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘safe spaces’ and other such puritanical, adolescent nonsense. He thinks you should ‘educate your editorial staff’. I think he should grow up.

Molly Cochrane, by email