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Are ‘recovery communities’ the answer to help prevent relapse?


Comic Relief aims to help some of the neediest sections of society here in the UK, as well as further afield. As part of their work, the high profile charity has teamed up with Liverpool John Moores University and the Centre for Public Health to set up so-called ‘Recovery Communities’ in four areas across the country, as Port of Call reports.

The Comic Relief: Give it Up Fund was set up on behalf of Russell Brand from the proceeds of his ‘Give It Up for Comic Relief’ gig that he hosted in March 2013 as part of Red Nose Day. It aims to develop and build abstinence-based recovery communities, and learn more about their effectiveness. The large grants programme element of the Give it Up Fund has supported the development of four pilot recovery communities across the UK.

Recovery Community

Collaborative community recovery services have been set up in Durham (The Cornforth Partnership, Clean and Sober Living), Birmingham (CHANGES UK, Peer led support and mentoring services), Gloucester (The Hub) and London (Spitalfields Crypt Trust, Choices and Progression). Since September 2014, Comic Relief has been working with the Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University, to find out how these recovery communities are contributing to the ambitions of improved and sustained community recovery.

Building recovery in communities

Part of the Give it Up Fund’s work in building recovery in communities involves weekly therapeutic peer support groups led by two Clean and Sober Living staff. Engaging with the group, which was led by those in recovery, helped the service users to reconnect with their family and friends, gain motivation and confidence to stay “clean”, take on responsibilities and start in employment or education.

An interim report, published by Comic Relief and its partner agencies in January 2016, summarised that members of the four recovery communities gained a sense of purpose and a feeling of being valued; personal capital (resilience, emotional stability, feeling responsible); improved relationships with family members and friends; and a feeling of being connected or belonging to wider society.

“Recovery from substance misuse is a continual journey in which the person rebuilds their life and interacts with the world around them,” say the report’s authors. “Even though the recovery journey is an individual experience, there are shared stories. Recovery communities provide a non-judgemental, safe environment and the freedom in which to build necessary social and practical skills. Peer support is essential for recovery and those further along the recovery journey act as role-models for those less experienced.

“Nearly everyone in recovery wants the opportunity to “give back” to the community. Therefore, members of recovery communities tend to engage in voluntary and mentoring roles. These roles provide a foundation for developing skills that are vital for personal progression, maintenance of abstinence and the recovery journey,” they add.

Port of Call’s community recovery services

“A dedicated community for recovery, as we’ve seen here with the Give it Up Fund, is an excellent initiative,” says Martin Preston, CEO of Port of Call. “It will be interesting to see how these four pilots develop further but the overall intent and ethos is the most important thing at this stage. Breaking down the stigma of addiction and fostering positive environments, where people can simply concentrate on recovering, is a pivotal step forwards.

“We know from our own experiences with addiction, and through helping many others to overcome theirs, how important a non-judgemental environment, peer support, closer ties with family and friends, and an improved self-image can be to aid the recovery process. Those are all central pillars to Port of Call’s addiction support services,” adds Martin.

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