Drink and Drugs News DDN March 2019 | Page 11

reports, pictures and videos: www.drinkanddrugsnews.com ‘We’re beyond service user involvement – it’s about service user leadership. Everybody’s got skills – it’s not hard to spot a leader.’ Peter Yarwood, Red Rose Recovery ‘Service users in differ ent parts of the country meet different challenges because of different local authority policies... There is a massive need for services to start connecting. Let’s get a network and take it from there.’ highest number of deaths we’ve ever seen, and yet people are talking about yoga and therapeutic approaches, or whatever it may be. Is there any engagement around what’s happening in the streets to people? What exactly is the point if it’s not representing the needs of everyone in the community, not just the people accessing that service?’ Service users did need to be developing forums that reached out to people not in treatment, agreed Release executive director Niamh Eastwood. ‘But it’s also the human rights of people in treatment that are being diminished in many parts of the country,’ with conditionality linked to methadone scripts, people being ‘coerced’ into treatment or having their doses reduced. ‘Quality treatment is needed in every area, and I think a national network could help push that,’ she said. Collective Voice would be ‘really supportive’ of a national network, said Mark Pryke its director, Oliver Standing, whether ‘it’s service users or people who use drugs,’ while Jon Roberts added that, ‘We don’t want to disenfranchise the majority of people who might be using drugs but who are not in treatment. We’re shifting www.drinkanddrugsnews.com from service user involvement, so called, to peer-led interventions and creating communities that can reach out to anybody. The landscape is definitely changing – you can bolt skill sets onto the right attitude with people who want to give back, but it’s a lot harder to bolt an attitude onto a skill set.’ ‘We’re way past service user involvement,’ Red Rose Recovery CEO Peter Yarwood told the session. ‘We’re having conversations about service user leadership. Everybody’s got skills – it’s not hard to pick out a leader, whether they’re in treatment or out of it, whether they’re in active addiction or abstinence- based recovery. It’s easy to spot a leader and create opportunities for them to have a go and get involved. If we’re not bringing people in active addiction with us on this journey, we’re missing a massive asset of people who have privileged access to the very communities we need to be tapping into. I don’t know what we’d call it, but there’s definitely a need for a network on a national scale.’ This could also then be used to influence and apply pressure at local level, he stressed. ‘W e don’t know about the needs of the people we never meet,’ said session chair Carole Sharma. ‘Providers imagine they know what’s going on in the drugs environment they serve, but they may be very wrong’, while B3 service manager Radha Allen added that, ‘chaotic drug users aren’t represented in a lot of service user groups’. Part of the network’s function could be to hold providers to account, said Carole Sharma, along with using experience to improve services and drive policy change. When people were not engaging with services, there were ‘reasons for that’, she said. ‘You have the drug strategy, but no one joins anything up – with childcare, looking after elderly people, homelessness, everything that’s going wrong. I was very angry when drug and alcohol management went to local authorities. I’m sorry, but I don’t trust local authorities with something that’s as difficult and complex as this, and the public health budget is just getting whittled away. The new ten-year NHS plan is saying prevention and public health is where it’s at, but they’re taking the money away. So for that reason alone I’d say that you really need to get your act together locally.’ When it came to influencing policy, the last drug strategy ‘reads beautifully, but it’s absolutely full of shit because no one has the money to implement it’, said Tim Sampey. ‘What’s the point of writing a policy that nobody can stick to? We need to be in a position to point that out, but we’re not.’ March 2019 | drinkanddrugsnews | 11