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Service user involvement in drug and alcohol treatment services
The growth of service users' involvement in the design and delivery of drug and alcohol services has made a big contribution to the evolution of those services so that they are more user-friendly and more likely to result in significant positive change for the people who use them.

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A guide for commissioners, providers and service users

Public Health England recently (7 September 2015) published a new guide for drug and alcohol commissioners, providers and service users on service user involvement.

The growth of service users’ involvement in the design and delivery of drug and alcohol services has made a big contribution to the evolution of those services so that they are more user-friendly and more likely to result in significant positive change for the people who use them.

After many years of tokenism, we now seem to have reached the point where there is genuine enthusiasm for  service user involvement across most of the country, with a mixture of different approaches.

The PHE document describes four different levels of service user involvement:

  1. Involvement in their own care or treatment plan
  2. Involvement in strategic development and commissioning
  3. Developing and delivering peer mentoring and support
  4. Developing and delivering user led, recovery focused enterprises.

The document features a number of checklists for these different levels of SUI and also includes 14 examples of service user led initiatives, described in their own words.


Recovery focused enterprises

Many of these user-led initiatives are recovery communities, some of which have been formally incorporated as social enterprises or Community Interest Companies.

Below are brief details of the ones which captured my interest:

Emerging Futures 
We set up Emerging Futures CIC in the spring of 2014 to work specially with service users, recovery communities and families of those in recovery. We hold a mid-point allegiance which put simply, means we work with treatment provider agencies to train people who are sustaining their own recovery (regardless of their chosen pathway) to engage, inspire and support others into a local recovery network. This network will include access to abstinence housing, leisure activities, family support, training, employment and entrepreneurial pursuits.
We use a coaching model as an organising principle which trains people to tell their story to influence others.


PUSH Recovery Community 
PUSH Recovery Community is a thriving peer-led recovery community. We are independent and believe this to be the most effective form of service user involvement. PUSH have a packed timetable that runs Monday through to Saturday with activities, projects and services organised by and for service users or anyone with issues around addiction. The weekly timetable typically includes:

  • an open forum with a regular attendance of 40-50 people
  • six advocacy clinics supported by weekly supervision
  • training up to NVQ level 3 standard in health and social care, and working therapeutically with addictions and recovery
  • RAW group (Recovery Available for Women)
  • SMART (mutual aid) groups
  • ‘Moving Forward’ in partnership with Portsmouth Probation
  • FIRST ACT, another mutual aid group incorporating acceptance commitment therapy and therapeutic activities

PUSH members attend as little or as much as they like and are encouraged to ‘do their own thing’. The entire PUSH timetable was born out of the PUSH members’ aspirations. At PUSH we nurture a positive, friendly and supportive atmosphere and know that each person’s recovery is as unique as they are.


Recover Team Hertfordshire
Recover Team Hertfordshire (‘Up-Cycling Furniture & Lives’) is a vibrant, exciting and inspirational furniture up-cycling social enterprise with a fabulous artisan workshop/showroom in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. At its heart is our commitment to sustainability by up-cycling unwanted furniture or working with donated and reclaimed materials.
We ‘up-cycle lives’ by offering our volunteers the opportunity to learn new skills, develop self-esteem, confidence and pathways to employment. Creativity, fun and professionalism is encouraged and is evident in our splendid ‘one of a kind’ items.


The Secret Space 
The Secret Space is a peaceful sanctuary in the heart of Hertford. It offers a range of yoga classes and Holistic Therapies. We are a social enterprise, giving people who have overcome great difficulties in their lives the chance to gain new skills, qualifications and work experience.
There is a strong sense of community spirit which supports clients, volunteers, therapists and teachers alike. We also sell products and exhibit artwork that has been created by local people. The Secret Space is truly helping people to change their lives.

If you are interested in service user involvement, then a browse through this report, and more particularly on the websites of these user-led initiatives will likely be a worthwhile experience.


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