June has been recognised as the Eastern region recovery month and over the last few years there have been events put together to celebrate recovery both in the communities and in services. These events have taken the shape of exhibitions, walks, open days and similar projects to raise awareness that recovery is out there, achievable, exciting, fun and contagious.

My month started off with a trip to the Strand in London today, which was actually quite euphoric in a mad sort of way because I used to sit in Holburn tube station (two minutes from where the meeting was held) a few years back and ask for spare change. Today however I was there to promote change. My day started with a full english traditional breakfast in a full english traditional cafe, a walk along the Embankment, a colourful chat with a big issue seller followed by an enlightening chat with a few ‘Nomads’ from the Occupy movement who were stood outside the Royal courts of Justice. Then a meeting in Covington and Burling’s LLP building….very suave….had a little ‘less than’ thing going on for a minute but once I’d got past the doorman and signed in I was okay. He did look very official.

The nature of the meeting was to discuss ways of improving service provision in a project in Kingston. The project deals with extremely chaotic individuals who are deeply entrenched in their way of life and is looking to expand it’s service to be more flexible and more diverse to meet the needs, and wants, of their using community. The organisation I work for work in partnership with this project and today were brainstorming ideas as to what could be done to make recovery more attractive within the service.

The end result of the meeting was that an event was to be held in the project, an open day if you like, where a few key inspirational speakers who had walked the walk and were proud owners of the t-shirt, came in to inspire hope and offer to support those with an interest in moving onto the next level to do just that. There was also a suggestion of a  presentation on ABCD (Asset Based Community Developement) which will be delivered by yours truly, followed by a ‘suggestions from the floor’ type session to find out what the clients of the service would like to see put in place to support them on their journey. Various training packages may be discussed and offered and, as important, a few fun events suggested for the future just to raise the moral of both staff and clients and give all involved in the project something to aspire towards. The event was set for the 12th July which unfortunately doesn’t fall into the recovery month but it was unrealistic to try and do it this month. All in all it as a productive day and am looking forward to the day.

Back to this months fun and frolics though. I initiated a group over in Bedford called SUSSED (Service User Strategy 4 Self Empowerment & Development) about about 18 months ago. They have a website and facebook page and are very active in their community advocating for change at all levels. They have members sitting on various boards including the complex needs rough sleeper partnership board, substance misuse panel board, have been asked to sit on the joint commisioning group and also to attend the practitioners meeting regularily to discuss service provision in the local area. They put on regular events which include service user briefings to keep those using the local services up to date with any changes or relevant infomation that they feel needs to be made accessable to those they represent. They have carried out surveys and have launched a few local campaigns based on the findings, they have also advocated for members of their community around issues with service provision at all levels.. SUSSED are an autonomous group who are now in the early stages of setting themselves up as a charity. They have been recognised in the area as being a very productive and progressive group and are now valued in the community. Members have been instrumental in setting up SMART Recovery meetings, making positive links in the community which resulted in work placements and one does volunteer outreach in the eastern european community and has been successful in securing housing and sorting out benefits for numerous individuals. He also speaks four different languages and translates in hospitals and various other institutions for his clients. Another member is in the early stages of making a film entitled ‘Welcome to my world’ which is aimed at raising the awareness of the effects of stigma and the realities of being a susbstance user. This has also promoted community involvement in so far as there are reps from the local university offering support and supplying all the equipment and a production team. Helps them to meet their targets for accreditation and we get a free film out of it.

Anyway, this month the group will be doing a sponsored walk fom Bedford to Cambridge, 30 miles in all, to raise awareness in the area, make recovery visable, and also to raise money for future event. This event will take place on the 30th June and will leave form Priory Marina in Bedford at 9:00. The walkers, myself included will be met in Sidney street, Cambridge by REACH, the Cambridge recovery Champion group, so will bring two counties together in the event. Other events that are in the process of being put together are a sleep out to raise awareness of the rising number of homeless in Bedfordshire on the night of the 23rd June and a 5 a side football tournament  which will be held on the 24th June. Teams secured for this so far will be RIOT (Recovery Is Out There) champions from Birmingham, Cambridge champions, Hertfordshire turning point, Cambridge Street Revolution, Cocaine anonymous and possibly the Kings arms project in Bedford who run the nightshelter and various other support and mutual aid groups in the area. Various services will be having open days, buffets and exhibitions of the art work and photographs taken by those who access the services. There will also be a recovery champion steering group meeting on the 19th June in Concateno Laboratories in Didcott, Oxford, where work will begin on this years conference in Liverpool Crown Plaza to be held in November and also discussions will begin as to how to move forward with a National newsletter which someone kindly nominated me for along with two others.

It’s going to be a busy month and a rewarding one.


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