Peer-led progress

jon-robertsSince founding Dear Albert four years ago, Jon Roberts has focused on developing recovery communities through peer-led interventions. He shares the latest exciting developments…

It’s two years since the recovery documentary Dear Albert premiered at the International Film Festival in Calgary. A lot’s happened since then. Our peer-led programme ‘You do the MAFS’ (Mutual Aid Facilitation Services) has been further developed and is currently helping people in Leicestershire address substance misuse.

Today we have ambitions to help many more. The plan is to make our services available as an ‘off the shelf package’ so other communities benefit. Talk of devolving services to those that have been nearer the problem isn’t new. What’s new is that Dear Albert is realising what the sustainable model looks like.
It’s a model that provides recovery communities directly with earned income – services purchased by commissioners, main providers and others successfully delivered by recovery community members. So the mechanism is born to develop what I call the ‘purple pound’ by dispersing income to those in recovery. And for those that consider recovery communities a myth, let me tell you – I live in one.

But it’s mainly about partnerships. It’s about collaborative enterprise that works in unison with bigger providers and community assets to create longer-term solutions. Part of our start-up funding and support came through the University of Leicester’s Enterprise Inc2 project and the Leicester Recovery Partnership’s innovation fund. Now we’re delivering group work in HMP Leicester and also in the community via West Leicestershire clinical commissioning group. Our latest partnership is with Turning Point.

The exciting news is we’ve had a six-month evaluation of ‘You do the MAFs’ published in the Journal of Groups in Addiction and Recovery. The findings are very positive, highlighting the benefits of our structured and intensive pathway into mutual aid. Bridging this gap through better formal peer-led mechanisms like ‘You do the MAFs’ suggests more service users attending mutual aid and that they can continue to increase aspects of their recovery as a consequence.

The fact that we can use this intervention to support our own recovery communities is the icing on the cake. It’s great to see that the work we do here is starting to be recognised elsewhere and that we are able to contribute to the evidence base. We use interventions such as peer-led ACT and the Dear Albert film and have refined our messaging to create a whole package that gets the message across that people do recover, and helps identify the best route for each individual.

Securing the structure by which other communities can start generating their own income by using ‘You do the MAFs’ is Dear Albert’s next step. The basic model – Independent peer-led facilitation into existing community assets – is already in place.

Jon Roberts is director of Dear Albert,