Drink and Drugs News DDN March 2019 | Page 18

KEEP ON MOVING: ThE 12Th DDN cONfErENcE Voices A NEED TO BE HEARD The voice of service users speaks louder than ever, says Paul North A lot has changed in drug treatment in the past 20 years. Countless contracts have come and gone, entire providers have gone out of business, several drug strategies have significantly changed the focus of treatment, and funding has plummeted. Among this flux one thing has always remained of vital importance; the voice of service users needs hearing. The best way to connect with this voice is to attend DDN’s annual conference, ‘Keep on Moving’ – this year’s title correctly suggesting that a level of resilience is required for anyone passionate about this space. In the morning Tim Sampey’s ‘Big Conversation’ talk summed it up well when he said, ‘I am really tired of death. I know so many people who have died, I can’t even remember all their names and faces’. Yet, despite the tiredness and countless drug-related deaths, he continues to Reflections on the DDN Conference There are a few themes that arise when we speak of the DDN conference and our experience over the last six years. Lancashire User Forum (LUF) organise for around 30 delegates, who are at different stages of their journey, to attend every year. It has become one of our highlights and our guys begin to rally round for places in early January. Attending the conference is refreshing – it gives the people of Lancashire an 18 | drinkanddrugsnews | March 2019 run an inspiring weekend-based mutual aid service in London called Build On Belief. And Tim is not alone in this resilience and commitment to advocating for the rights of service users. Comments throughout the day highlighted the passion that exists for service user involvement and the need for it to remain at the forefront of delivery. Despite the passion, attending the conference gave me the impression that everyone in the sector is feeling frustrated. The cuts to treatment services have been nothing short of brutal, with little investment from government, even in the context of record levels of drug-related deaths. Mat Southwell from the European Network of People who Use Drugs (EuroNPUD) gave a fantastic presentation, which was full of difficult questions for those in government. ‘How on earth have we had an outbreak of HIV in 2018 in Glasgow, the home of harm reduction?, he asked. A good question, the answer to which is likely to lie in the lack of investment and funding in the sector. He also asked, why is the UK seeing so many drug-related deaths compared to other parts of Europe? He stated that it can’t just be due to an ageing population, highlighting that changes to the way in which treatment services work could play a key role. Despite the latest government drug strategy referencing the importance of harm reduction it sounds as though treatment services are still heavily monitored on drug-free outcomes. Several comments were made throughout the day with members of the audience stating that if treatment services didn’t appreciation of the bigger picture from a national perspective and an opportunity to link in with peers across the UK. Every year we bring down fresh faces and each one has an amazing experience. One of the main themes to emerge after a DDN conference is the power of connection; people realising that resources lie within relationships is powerful, and that’s what the DDN conference is all about for us – a great big, fat networking opportunity! A chance for our people to get motivated and share best practice, bringing new ideas back with us. This year we brought down some family members from our newly formed Families Matter support network. They didn’t really know what to expect and were a bit apprehensive about attending – however after some persuasion from Emma and me they packed an overnight bag and came along for the ride! The feedback from the families was that they didn’t really understand what we did here in Lancashire, but after attending the conference they loved it and are fired up to make a difference for family members, It’s not about the numbers or how big the group is, but rather the belief and passion of the people driving the change. Peter Yarwood and Emma Daggers, Red Rose Recovery www.drinkanddrugsnews.com