Liz Campbell, Area Director tells us about WDP’s attendance at the 2022 DDN Conference and shares feedback from our staff and service users who attended
On Thursday 23 June, we attended this year’s DDN Conference in Birmingham. The theme was ‘All Together Now’ as it was the first time that this conference was being held in person for over two years.
Our team included staff from across our WDP services and we were also joined by four Service User Representatives from Redbridge. Our stall had information about our services and the work we are currently involved in, such as our Hep C elimination project. There were lots of other stalls giving out information about all the interesting work they were doing too.
John Conner, Recovery Practitioner at our New Beginnings service in Cheshire West and Chester, said: “There was a really good energy and lots of choices and new inspirational projects available to complement each other. I particularly liked the service user input from other parts of the country.”
The conference was opened by Rosanna O’Connor from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) who gave an overview of Dame Carol Black’s independent review on drugs and the additional funding that is being given to the sector.
Then followed two brilliant presentations about some of the difficulties women and BAME service users have in accessing services and our Head of Integration, Rebecca Odedra gave a great presentation about our IPS Into Work service and how it helps service users find employment.
One of the afternoon sessions saw Ed Davy, the UK government’s drug Recovery Champion, talking about a united approach and that there isn’t one path to recovery.
Qas Hassan, Peer Support Worker at our partnership service ARCH (Addiction Recovery Community Hillingdon), said: “The guest speakers were a fantastic contribution to the conference, especially Rebecca for WDP’s IPS employment service and the national recovery champion, Ed Day. I learnt a great deal about the new funding for our services and what plans will be implemented to improve access to mental health and additional support for our clients in the community.”
Gary Gemmell, Team Leader from our Capital Card team, said: “The highlight of my day was listening to the presentation from Ed Day. He really has made a difference for our service users and staff, by helping with the implementation of the government’s new 10-year drug strategy (From Harm to Hope), combined with the Dame Carol Black report. It really does sound like the future of drug and alcohol services looks as though it is set to really improve, roll on the next ten years.”
The conference was a great opportunity to spend time with colleagues, peer mentors, and service users. I was particularly pleased to see the enthusiasm shown by the Service User Representatives from Redbridge who also attended and thought it was a brilliant event. They said:
- “We should do this more often, with more service users.”
- “I learnt a lot about what’s happening in recovery around the country.”
- “We want more tickets for service users at the next DDN [conference].”
One of our newest members of staff Ava Cooper, Employment Specialist at our IPS Into Work service, summed up the conference perfectly, by saying:
“Attending the DDN 2022 conference was a great experience. Being new to the sector, it was insightful to hear lived experience stories and how this results in engagement. Building on recovery capital really is the best way we can connect during recovery and work towards enriching people’s lives. This also shed light on the direction of the sector prioritising community-led practice that values peer support; overall looking at recovery beyond medication. The emphasis on holistic support, achieved by services working together to provide training and support, gave me a greater understanding of the pillars of recovery.”
To find out more about the DDN Conference 2022, read DDN’s latest issue here https://joom.ag/sXCd. The issue includes an overview of Rebecca Odedra’s IPS Into Work presentation on page 8 and a WDP team photo and quote from Rebecca on pages 18-19.
I have been volunteering at WDP since October 2020 and started out as a Volunteer Recovery Practitioner.
I used to work in the fashion industry, however I made the decision to change careers because I wanted to make a difference to people’s lives. I have experience of addiction and I feel that I can make use of what I have learnt from my own recovery journey to help others facing similar difficulties with substance misuse. Having studied Psychology at the University of East London, I also wanted to apply my psychology background to my volunteering and work.
The best thing for me about volunteering [at WDP] is the wide range of professional training that is available. I have had the opportunity to learn and develop by shadowing some very knowledgeable mentors and by attending many courses. I was also able to gain valuable experience working with services users by co-facilitating health trainings and non-dependent groups.
As well as helping service users with their drug and alcohol issues, I have also been able help them with other areas of their life too. Some of our service users don’t have access to the internet and they struggle to fill in online forms. This can make it difficult for them to access essential services like benefits and housing support. I have helped people access benefits and food vouchers by supporting them with form filling and contacting agencies.
My volunteering experience has also helped in my own personal life as I have developed transferrable life skills such as boundary setting, SMART goals, and office etiquette.
Volunteering has boosted my self-confidence and sense of achievement and has helped me achieve my career goal to work in the drug and alcohol field. I will soon be starting a full-time paid position at WDP as a Navigator Practitioner.
Don’t be afraid to try new things – volunteering is a life changing experience!
Matteo’s experience has also featured in DDN Magazine, which you can read on page 6 here.
After more than a decade of working hard and playing hard in my spare time, my lifestyle finally caught up with me; I burnt out in spectacular fashion, descending into addiction, losing my job and my home in the process.
Life became a matter of survival until I engaged with WDP and was helped to gradually rebuild from the ground up. I was encouraged to attend training to become a peer mentor by my keyworker.
When the opportunity came up to help welcome new service users in the Induction Group I took it, even though I wasn’t sure sharing my experience of recovery would be relevant to anyone else. The positive response I got from the group members hearing from someone who had been in their position and managed to turn things around made me realise I could have an impact.
The role helped me build my self-esteem back up and I felt like I had some purpose again. With the confidence that brought me, I decided to go back to studying, and enrolled on a counselling course.
Over the three years I have been at college, I have continued to volunteer at WDP in various roles. I recently did some great experiential training with other volunteers that gave me a boost in my skills.
Finally, impossibly, I’ve come full circle and am helping train a brilliant new group of peer mentors. I’d never have believed it if someone had told me that one day I’d be in front of a class teaching, but here I am.
If you are someone who is considering taking up a volunteering role, my advice is to grab the opportunity. The experience that I’ve had at WDP has been encouragement to challenge myself in a supportive environment. It has allowed me to build skills that have opened up options for me to get back into work and turned what was a very difficult time in my life into something meaningful.
Anthony’s experience has also featured in DDN Magazine, which you can read on page 6 here.
Increasing drug and alcohol referrals in Hillingdon
One of the key aims of the government’s 10-year drug strategy is to increase referrals into substance misuse treatment from the criminal justice system.
Rosie Robinson, Team Manager of WDP’s partnership service ARCH, saw a worrying drop in referrals from local custody suites during 2021. She shares how her training programme with the Metropolitan Police resulted in a significant increase in referrals and awareness of support options for service users.
During 2021, our criminal justice team at ARCH (Addiction Recovery Community Hillingdon) saw a large decline in the number of referrals from custody suites to our service. To combat this trend and find out why this might be happening, I reached out to the Custody Manager at Heathrow Airport and the DIP (Drug Interventions Programme) Drug Testing Coordinator at the Metropolitan Police.
Typically, this pathway brings in the largest number of referrals to our team so this decrease was impacting on the support we would typically provide for the service users who we would see in our clinic. We often receive referrals from this pathway for service users that may have never entered treatment in the past and it is a good opportunity to engage with them, educate and raise awareness, and support them in their recovery.
Feedback from our police partners indicated that some of the contributing factors to this drop in referrals were COVID related, including the impact on staffing levels. However, it was also felt that custody staff could benefit from a better understanding of ‘what happens next’ once they refer an individual and the important part they can play.
I was invited by the DIP Drug Testing Coordinator to be part of their Personal Development Days. This was to provide a training slot on the importance of drug testing people in custody and how to refer them to their local DIP team.
I provided training to around 1,000 Metropolitan Police officers overall, to give them a full picture of what we do in drug and alcohol services, what support we give individuals who come to us from the criminal justice system, and what the positive outcomes of treatment are.
The training sessions were a big success. I explained and showcased the treatment options we have at ARCH and how we stabilise this group of service users and continue to support them in their recovery.
It was really encouraging to take questions from officers who wanted a clearer understanding of the job we do and why we do it, explaining to them that we are all part of the bigger picture in tackling substance-related crime – with the referral from custody being the first step.
The feedback we received from the training days was really positive. Also since undertaking this training, we have been seeing increases in our referrals at ARCH (see graph below).
We have been sharing success stories and details of the positive changes service users have made since being referred to us with our police partners and will continue to do so. We hope that this will motivate them to keep testing, referring, and being an integral part of the recovery journey for many of the people they work with.
Partner feedback from the DIP Drug Testing Coordinator
“Your training gave an insight into what happens after custody and how the partnership working that is DIP, provides the help and support those testing positive in custody can access.
“You also highlighted a number of services your provider offers for individuals outside of those we test in relation to DIP.
“This was most helpful for staff to know, that they can provide individuals with your providers’ details to make contact for some support.”
A 48-year-old woman called Hayley was referred to ARCH for her first required appointment, after being arrested and testing positive for heroin and crack cocaine whilst in Heathrow Custody.
Since attending ARCH, Hayley has been doing extremely well. She has been able to stabilise on her methadone prescription and has been testing negative for any illicit opiates.
She is really pleased she hasn’t been using heroin on top of her prescription and that her arms have also started to heal since she is no longer injecting since being in treatment.
She is working with her keyworker on being able to manage her money and is happy she was able to buy something for herself recently rather than spending her money on drugs.
Hayley has had a long history of substance misuse and criminal activity, so this is a really positive step for her in her recovery journey.
National Apprenticeship Week (7–13 February) is a week-long celebration of apprenticeships in England. The theme this year is ‘build the future’, reflecting how apprenticeships can help individuals to develop the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career, and help organisations to develop a talented workforce.
To mark National Apprenticeship Week, WDP Merton Service Manager Helen O’Connor and former apprentice Elil Jeyakumar share how Elil has helped the service to break down the barriers to drug and alcohol treatment in the local Tamil community.
Helen O’Connor, Service Manager at WDP Merton
When WDP became the service provider for Merton in 2018, one thing we were keen to do was to respond better to local needs and deliver more culturally informed support to residents from Merton’s diverse communities. A particular area of focus was how the service engaged and worked with residents from the local Tamil community.
It can be difficult for professional interpreters who are not experienced in the delivery of drug and alcohol services, to understand our processes or find words to translate some of the vocabulary that we routinely use. Even when interpreters can support assessments and 1-2-1 keyworking sessions, their presence may be a barrier to an effective working relationship between a practitioner and service user. This is especially the case if there is a different interpreter in each session, or when the interpreter is from the service user’s community, if they do not feel confident speaking freely in front of them.
We wanted to find new ways to address barriers and to provide more choice in the solutions on offer, including groups and peer support. Using the apprenticeship levy scheme, we recruited an apprentice practitioner who could speak Tamil. Their role focused on helping us to understand how we could adapt to better engage with Tamil-speakers and their families, improving their experience of treatment.
Elil joined us in 2019. He has made such a difference to our local service and has now successfully completed his apprenticeship. We’re delighted that he has stayed with the service, becoming a fully-fledged recovery practitioner and a vital and valued member of our team. I’ll let him tell you more about his experience with us!
Elil Jeyakumar, former Apprentice Recovery Practitioner
During my undergraduate years and leading up to my apprenticeship, I worked with community organisations that were tackling the issue of uneven access to health and social care (and statutory services in general) for BAME, migrant, and refugee communities. It was identified that an inclusive approach, which takes into consideration the language, cultural and socio-economic barriers faced by service users, was necessary to promote and sustain continued engagement from them. The problem was that not many organisations or services were putting in place mechanisms to ensure this approach was being taken.
It was very interesting to me that WDP Merton was trying to implement measures for certain areas of improvement that were discussed in the community organisations I worked with, such as the language barrier and making information available in first languages. As a bilingual person, I applied for the apprenticeship wanting to contribute to implementing these changes.
I had no previous experience of working in the sector, however, I gained the necessary knowledge, training, and experience at WDP Merton through the apprenticeship programme. There were lots of opportunities made available to me to design and deliver group programmes and also produce and translate information in the Tamil language.
Over the last few years, I have had many Tamil-speaking service users, who had either no fluency or very limited fluency in English, with whom I was able to foster a very good and trusting relationship. We have even had service users help their friends and peers refer themselves to the service. I believe this goes to show the effectiveness of the work we have done, and I hope this sets a good example and will be followed by other services when and wherever possible.
A service user’s perspective
“When I came to WDP I had so many problems. My son wouldn’t speak to me, I had no family, I had nowhere to live. Then I lost my job because of drinking. I had lost so many things in my life because of alcohol. I had the shakes every day. When I first went to WDP, they helped me get some blood tests and to join a group, and then I had 10 days in detox. After that, I felt so much healthier. I came every week after that to see my keyworker and had a weekly Tamil group with other men. I liked that in the group we could talk and help each other change our lifestyle. There are so many things WDP helped me with, it totally changed my life. Life is going great now.”
This service user found housing and reconnected with his adult son. He also met an advisor at WDP Merton’s Job Centre satellite who helped him access training and find a new job. He has finished his treatment journey with WDP but has supported and encouraged other men from his community into treatment with us.
If you are interested in apprenticeship roles at WDP, visit our recruitment portal to view our latest vacancies and sign up for email alerts.
You can also download our WDP Merton Tamil service leaflet on our WDP Merton service page.