DDN September 2023 DDN September_2023_v2 | Page 26


The DDN conference is the perfect chance to share ideas and make connections , says Stacey Smith
Many roads
The 15th DDN Conference

As a DDN conference veteran , it ’ s a pleasure to share my experience of this year ’ s conference . Preparation for the event always starts early and this year was no exception , with a focus group forming online a few months ahead to ensure it could be as inclusive and all-encompassing as possible .

First things first , I had an amazing team of Changes UK and
SIAS ( Solihull Integrated Addiction Service ) crew by my side who helped prepare the delegate bags the day before the conference . It ’ s always nice to offer the opportunity to people who have never been before , and everyone giving their time has their own unique lived experience .
On arrival , the Hep C Trust were doing a sterling job of welcoming delegates . Continuing our perfect example of partnership working , our Changes UK stall neighboured SIAS and the atmosphere was buzzing and busy . A diverse range of organisations had set up stalls , showcasing their services and projects – from harm reduction campaigns to community treatment and private rehabs , representing a spectrum of UK services .
Lynn Porter is one of our success stories . She ' s now working with us as a recovery worker and came to the conference for the first time . ‘ I found it invaluable to connect with other services that I will be able to signpost people to outside of our area ,’ she says .
The passion in our field means that discussions can get heated in social media circles , and rightly so – without dialogue , nothing will change . Unfortunately , dialogue isn ’ t always heard by the people that need to listen , but we can strive . The DDN conference offers an opportunity to bring everyone together , and creates a safe space for discussions and to hear presentations from a diverse lineup of engaging speakers on stage .
Stigma was , as always , a key issue , and the day was a good time for reflection on what action is needed to overcome the barriers that continue to exist . How can we ensure we break down those barriers ? Not only how we get those messages out to wider society , but how to make sure services are accountable for messaging and terminology , and how can we be as inclusive as possible and respect people ’ s choices for their own road to health and wellbeing .
A big shout out to the catering staff who kept us all in refreshments , a hot lunch , and cakes throughout the day ! There also seemed to be quite a few stalls with cupcakes and sweets
' A diverse range of organisations had set up stalls , showcasing their services and projects ... representing a spectrum of UK services .'
which of course I resisted . Should sugar addiction be on the agenda next year ..?
I left the event with warm and fuzzy feelings , a croaky voice from my incessant chattering , and a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to continue advocating for the people and issues that matter . Events to instigate connections and reconnections are vital , and not just once a year . If the DDN conference does anything it should inspire all in the field to open our minds to what is truly important . If you get a chance to attend next year , I ' d strongly encourage you to do so . Let ’ s keep people alive and thriving . Until next year !
Stacey Smith is a freelance trainer who manages volunteers with lived experience for Changes UK