United we stand

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Jonathan MunroJonathan Munro tells DDN about the pioneering partnership working happening among prisons in the North East. 

The prison partnership is a new venture formed in April 2013, which brings together all substance misuse treatment providers in the North East under one single partnership umbrella. 

The partnership is made up of seven prison service establishments, NOMS, providers such as Care UK, Phoenix Futures, Lifeline and NECA – all coordinated by Addaction. The aim of the partnership is to provide an integrated team approach, both within prisons and also for prison transfers to the community, enabling a coordinated transition.

With a ‘partnership manager’ overseeing and coordinating the commissioned service providers, a truly collaborative treatment approach is being delivered with obvious benefits to service users.

Addaction were offered the opportunity to deliver the prison partnership model, because of their strong belief in partnership working. Although they had lots of experience of delivering in partnership, and had a community partnership model already located in the North East community, this venture was the first of its kind in prisons, both locally and nationally.

The North East is home to between 5,000 and 5,500 prisoners, a large proportion of whom have substance misuse issues. They are housed in a wide variety of prisons each of which, despite being very different establishments, has a Drug and Alcohol Recovery Team (DART) consisting of differing service providers offering both clinical and non-clinical interventions.

Overseen by Addaction partnership managers, the interventions are increasingly bespoke for the individual establishment, and consequently treatment is tailor-made for the service users rather than the off-the-shelf programmes so often offered in the past.

Lynn DouganThe recovery community in the North East is growing, and thanks to the innovative thinking of commissioners, the numbers are swelling inside prisons. There is a thriving recovery community emerging, with drug recovery wings, therapeutic communities and bespoke interventions. There are peer support, structured substance misuse and alcohol rolling programmes, as well as SMART, 12-step and NA/AA/CA all available.

In October 2013, an event launching a ‘partnership working agreement’ document took place in Durham City. The document places service users at its heart and details partnership working for substance misuse treatment within North East prisons.

The event heard from the likes of Gerv McGrath, the director of community services for Addaction, Professor John Podmore, a trustee of Addaction and ex-prison governor, and Mark Harrison, the commissioner responsible for the partnership management function in the community and instrumental in the introduction of the model to the prisons.

Delegates listened to ex-service users who had benefited from partnership working and who were now free from prison, drugs and crime as a result. They also got to ‘meet the team’ – the strategic partnership manager, Lynn Dougan and the partnership managers, all of whom have been appointed to individual prisons. Between us, we possess an eclectic range of backgrounds and experience, and we each spoke passionately about our new positions.

We aren’t naïve to the challenges facing us, but our camaraderie, enthusiasm and pride in our work made it clear to delegates exactly why this model of partnership working is proving successful in getting results in the challenging environments of North East prisons.

The partnership management function is driving forward the recovery agenda in the heart of the prisons and gaining the collaboration and respect of the respective prison establishments. Delegates heard about the work currently being undertaken in each prison and the exciting plans for the future.

The tagline at the bottom of each page of the partnership working agreement says it all: ‘Working together to deliver the best service possible to service users, their families and carers.’ It is clear the partnership management model of collaboration between different service providers is proving to be a success and drawing attention from across the UK – how long will it be before it’s rolled out beyond the North East of England?

Jonathan Munro is the partnership manager at HMP & YOI Low Newton.