Your letters

On the bandwagon

As a community-based provider of substance misuse services I was interested to read John Jolly’s views on procurements and tendering which will no doubt resonate with many in the field (DDN, August, page 20). He clearly makes some valid points.

Throughout the years there have regularly been calls for the substance misuse field to unite and work together so as not to pit one provider against another to the detriment of, as John puts it, the ‘local third sector organisation operating and attuned to local communities’. However, we all know this hasn’t happened and we all probably know why, when ‘profit motivation’, ‘survival’ or ‘growth’ have got in the way of ethics.

But isn’t it best not to put all the blame on commissioning when organisations have been so keen to jump on this bandwagon. Maybe it would be better to make sure our own practices are in order first and that we too aren’t, in some way, a part of the demise of a vibrant local provision, before we point the finger elsewhere.

Sue Kenten, CEO, DASL


High and dry 

I’m worried about the hidden alcoholics. They have always been left out of the loop. They don’t come under Supporting People because they don’t have housing issues as they own their own houses. They don’t come under peer mentoring as they don’t need education, training or employment as they work or own their own businesses or are retired. They don’t come under DIP as they don’t have a criminal record. If they score under 20 or have come out of detox or rehab, they are no longer seen by the substance misuse service. There is no aftercare or relapse prevention for them. They are left high and dry, worried that they will relapse (which in most cases they do) without support.

We need empathic support workers who can offer relapse prevention and who can visit them in their own homes where they feel more comfortable. Hidden alcoholics are proud people who don’t understand why they have reached rock bottom. They are too embarrassed to admit it to their families. In most cases they want instant support, because they don’t know the procedure or system that they have to go through to get help.

We also need sympathetic, empathic people to visit service users in hospital. Some have never been under the treatment services (this world is alien to them) when they are left by their families, partners (who don’t understand why they drink or take drugs) to languish for weeks on end. With no one to speak to, in some cases they come across unsympathetic medical staff who don’t realise that most alcoholics drink because of something that has happened in their lives.

I’ve spent hours sitting by the bedside of clients who just want to see a friendly face. I founded AGRO because there was no support for service users in the evening and weekends. I’m now in the process of helping to start something similar in Pembrokeshire called The Peer Project with a lady called Leigh Proctor.

As a recovering alcoholic myself, I spend a lot of my spare time thinking of ways to support fellow service users to make their lives easier. Every new project I come up with has come from what I have seen and heard while working as a substance misuse support worker for more than ten years.

Huw Harries, co-founder/chairman, Anglesey & Gwynedd Recovery Organisation (AGRO)


Seeing red

As a supporter and practitioner of most Green Party topics, I have considerable respect for Caroline Lucas, but not in regard to her attitude towards addiction issues.

The fact that in 2013 she still ‘wants the government to acknowledge that current policy is flawed’ (DDN, August, page 16), and also that she would ‘like to think that there’s a point at which ministers have to change course’, is strong proof that she has not read the current coalition government’s 2010 drug strategy.

For some 61 years, the sort of policies she rightly condemns have been condoned by successive governments of all colours – until the election of this government, who immediately acknowledged that the existing policy was flawed and declared that the country had to change course in major ways to head us towards a drug-free society. 

And the strategy they announced was fabulous when compared to what had gone before for six decades, ie pretty much what Caroline Lucas appears to look for.

The first strand of their new policy is ‘reduce demand’, which they are striving for by seeking to recover addicts from their addiction – because they have understood that it is addicts who create demand, not non-users.

They have also set a goal for ‘recovery to lasting abstinence’ in place of ‘habit management’, and underlined this by disbanding the NTA and introducing Payment by Results based on a certified outcome of ‘12 months free of addictive substance usage’.

But it takes time to dismantle and replace the deeply embedded failed policies of more than 60 years, especially as there has been not only the usual inertia and natural resistance to change, but also determined efforts both overt and covert by the long incumbent treatment providers, commissioners and prescribers to protect their jobs, incomes and the tolerant lack of real results they have long enjoyed.

So let’s avoid uninformed calls for changes until the current 2010 drug strategy is actually out of the starting blocks and into delivering a return to the natural state of relaxed abstinence into which 99 per cent of the population is born.

Kenneth Eckersley, CEO Addiction Recovery Training Services (ARTS)


Are you a social worker?

Or perhaps you have a colleague who is? The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) Special Interest Group (SIG) in Alcohol and other Drugs is looking to establish a database of social workers specialising in substance use. 

The SIG is keen to ensure its events and resources meet the needs of professionals who specialise in substance use as well as those who specialise in other areas of social work practice and who want to learn more about responding to substance use.

We would use the database for consultation on policy responses, as well as consultation on future events and resources.

If you would like to be added to our database, please contact Sarah Richards at BASW on or the chair of the SIG, Sarah Galvani, on

Sarah Galvani


Make music

The Phoenix Re:Cover Music Project, is looking for anyone who has been affected by addiction and want to use their passion for making music to communicate their experience and story.

The project will give a small number of people the chance to record two songs, one original and one cover, both of which tell a story or give an insight into addiction. Each solo artist or group will have a day in a recording studio to record their songs  with the help and support of an industry professional mentor. The final recorded songs will be posted online for the public to vote on their favourite and the solo artist or group with the most votes will receive a prize package worth £1,500 (to spend on, for example, making a music video, vouchers for musical equipment, or music training sessions).

Have you or someone you know been affected by drug or alcohol addiction? Do you have a passion for making music and want to communicate your story? If so you can apply today.

Any support for the project is really appreciated; we need people to spread the word and we’d also be interested in speaking to anyone who’d like to partner with us for an even more ambitious Re:Cover in 2014.

To find out more about supporting, or applying to, the project, visit or contact me at

Vicky Holdsworth, marketing officer, Phoenix Futures


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