The DDN Conference, 13 July, Birmingham.
For some users this is recovery and abstinence, for others it is having a stable base line – controlled use. Others want medication and to be substance free. Then there are those who simply want effective harm reduction. All of them are valid, all roads should be included.
It’s not mine or anyone else’s role to tell users what’s the best road – that’s a personal choice that they must make for themselves. It’s the role of organisations, activists, representatives and providers to give users a clear, evidence-led useful and effective map… not to tell users what they ‘should’ be doing/thinking or what ‘should’ be happening. This is the benefit of the DDN conference – its focus is not on a particular road whether that’s recovery, criminal justice, etc. It’s a conference about the needs and wants of users, the choices offered to us and the specific work being carried out by us or with us. Sometimes we will agree with it, sometimes we won’t.
The conference theme this year was developed with users walking different roads, organisations, and providers offering different things. If you are a user who wants to get involved, have your say, develop your voice and better understand this sector then you should be at the conference. If you are an activist, it shouldn’t matter what you are acting on behalf of (abstinence, recovery, the end of prohibition, safer consumption sites) you should be at this conference. If you are a harm reductionist it is vital you are involved because there are so many innovative new approaches – you should be at this conference. If you are an organisation or provider you should have no real set agenda apart from users’ wants/needs and so should be listening to, taking part in and responding to this conference.
It is vitally important that we set aside our personal opinions and look at the bigger picture. Who do you represent? Who/what are you fighting for? What is it you are really trying to achieve? We will continue to fail to make radical change unless we work together. Let us not move backwards a decade to when we allowed others to pit us against each other.
We often talk about stigma in a very narrow way but stigma happens within the using communities, it happens in relation to the choice of substance or how you take the substance, it happens within organisations. The most effective way to combat stigma is by recognising it. This occurs when we talk, when we share, when we really listen – when we disagree on which road we walk, but can agree that issues like saving people on any road are important.
If you are a provider or an organisation that offers funds to support user inclusion and empowerment, please try to make sure that you helping ALL users to attend who wish to.
Anna Millington runs a non-funded, non-affiliated support network for mothers who use drugs
HERE ARE SOME QUOTES FROM THAT VERY FIRST CONFERENCE IN 2008…
‘If you can spend money putting me in prison, or rehab, or a straitjacket, why can’t you spend money putting me on an IT course?’ Delegate
‘What could policymakers do better? They could trust service users to set and fund their own agendas. They would then be in a better position to do what they wanted to do.’ Delegate
‘We need to come up with focused ideas that have high impact… A lot of people don’t put enough bloody effort into user involvement. Some people have done this spectacularly well. Don’t reinvent the wheel – use what works. We need to bring up the next generation of user involvement; it’s up to us.’ Jimi Grieve (NUN)
‘Let’s be productive in changing what we can change, rather than spending months on what we can’t.’ Delegate
‘A lot of potential talent and experience is lost due to the use of inappropriate language – where folk tend to switch off rather than try to work out its meaning. First impressions last and are hard to dispel.’ Delegate
‘There’s a strong feeling that we want to communicate through user groups and not be sterilised by government procedures.’ Delegate
‘Peer-led services provide better services – it’s a fact. If funding was pulled for service user involvement, we would see an increase in lapses.’ Delegate
‘There needs to be more cohesion between service user groups to get a national service user voice.’ Delegate
‘I see the way forward as service users being an independent network. Outcomes should be based on service users, not commissioners.’ Kevan Martin (NERAF)
‘Every service user group should meet up and bounce their ideas off each other.’ Delegate
‘The key things for service users are: be less confrontational and more dynamic; keep knocking on doors; be realistic about what can be changed.’ Delegate
‘Why am I the only commissioner from my area being funded to come to this conference?’ Delegate.
The DDN Conference will be at the Motorcycle Museum Birmingham on 13 July.