DDN October 2020 ‘We have a unique role in breaking county lines’ | Page 14


I AM A ...

Leanne Smullen-Bethell is head of house at Phoenix ’ s National Specialist Family Service , where people can seek treatment for their substance use problems while staying together as a family . She tells us about her role


’ ve worked here for 11 years . I have a passion for supporting people with addiction problems and the opportunity to work with mums and dads who are trying to overcome addiction really interested me .
The day starts by checking how the parents are feeling . We discuss activities for the day and arrange appointments . There will be a group session of therapy followed by lunch . The children will be cared for by our lovely childcare team whilst the parents take part in the therapy session . Afternoons can vary – sometimes there will be a oneto-one session with a key worker , activities like bowling , swimming , walks to the park or parent and child play sessions . There may also be appointments with midwives , health visitors or social care professionals . Children are settled in the evening for adults to take part in recreational group sessions and relaxation time before bed .
Our family service provides comprehensive care focused on assessing child development and wellbeing , as well as making observations around parenting . The work done by our childcare team is crucial in helping us deliver our programme . Our nursery is Ofsted registered , and rated ‘ outstanding ’.
We give parents a chance to come to our service with their children – this is unusual as we are the only service in the UK that supports dads as well as mums . We really believe in giving all parents an opportunity to be with their children , and for children to be with their parents . There are 2.9m lone parent families in the UK and 90 per cent of those are children with an absent father .
We help families to stop using drugs or alcohol dependently and become more stable parents . We offer support through the later stages of pregnancy , childbirth and into the early stages of parenting . We work with mums and dads to work through difficult emotions and daily challenges so that they no longer feel the need to use substances to function .
When we see people come to the service completely broken , desperate for help , we offer them a safe place to work on their recovery with their children . Without the work that we do most of those kids would end up in the care system . We give hope to families where they may have had none – and the programme works .
The service has a really high success rate – 85 per cent of families successfully recover and leave the service with their children , which is a wonderful thing – particularly considering the national average success rate for residential treatment is 57 per cent . Christmas is just around the corner and it ’ s a really magical time here at the family service . We have a big Christmas lunch with presents and lots of food and activities . We decorate the house and everyone really gets involved . We really try to create opportunities for families to make memories .
If there ’ s one thing I would change it would be to give more chances to enter the service . Access to a specialist residential service such as the one I manage in Sheffield is really hard – not because
‘ The work done by our childcare team is crucial in helping us deliver our programme . Our nursery is Ofsted registered , and rated “ outstanding ”.’
we can ’ t or won ’ t accept more families but because accessing the opportunities for parents with addiction problems can be more challenging . A big fear for families is that if they ask for help they are at risk of their children being taken into care . If more local authorities invested in supporting mums and dads to improve their lives earlier , that may prevent parent and child separation further down the line through the courts .
To anyone considering a similar career , I would say : if helping people is your passion , then go for it . A career in addiction services can be the most rewarding job of all . Knowing that you can help someone who is broken to rebuild their life is just amazing . You get to meet lots of really interesting people and have the privilege of hearing their stories and being a part of their recovery journey . What can be better than that ? DDN
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