In 2020, the Service User Involvement team at Fulfilling Lives South East fed into the public consultations towards the Independent Review of Drugs by Dame Carol Black, commissioned by the Home Secretary. This blogpost outlines the process of gathering the unique lived experience perspectives of women who had used the substance misuse services as well as creative recovery groups. The findings from our submission have now been published into a report which provides the local context of accessing drug treatment and recovery in East Sussex.
In February 2019, the Home Secretary appointed Professor Dame Carol Black to undertake an independent review of drugs to inform the government’s thinking on what more can be done to tackle the harm that drugs cause. The study took place in two phases; the first phase was published in February 2020 and included a rigorous and ground-breaking analysis to understand the complex and overlapping markets for illegal drugs, which can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/review-of-drugsphase-one-report/review-of-drugs-summary.
In July 2020, public consultations began for the second part of the review and focussed on understanding the challenges involved in drug treatment, prevention and recovery and opportunities for improvement. Fulfilling Lives South East Partnership (FLSE) fed into the public consultations though the National Expert Citizens Group (NECG), who were approached to gather the views of people with experience of substance misuse as well as other intersecting complex needs such as mental ill health, homelessness, domestic abuse, and removal of children.
The NECG is a partnership of people connected to all of the 12 Fulfilling Lives projects across the country, who also have direct experience of multiple disadvantages. Their aim is to raise the bar on co-production and to demonstrate how lived experience leadership and insight can change systems and services.
As part of our contributions, team members from FLSE’s Service User Engagement team conducted a series of 1-2-1 and group discussions to collect unique perspectives from women who have experienced drug and alcohol misuse as well as with mixed gendered peer-led creative recovery groups. The conversations centred around four questions:
1. How can we make it easier for people to access drug treatment and recovery services, and stay in contact with those services?
2. How can we ensure the mental health needs of people in treatment are met?
3. What is the best way to meet the employment and housing needs of those in treatment and recovery?
4. What else stops people recovering and why might they relapse? What would help?
Summary of Findings
Throughout these conversations there were common threads; regardless whether the individuals were currently using services, had used them in the past, or were themselves providing support at present. These consistent messages highlighted the following:
1. Trauma needs to be addressed as part of any treatment.
2. The need for a holistic approach to treatment and support; mental and emotional health, access to employment and housing, community support, etc.
3. The importance of personal development; rebuilding one’s identity, develop self-esteem, focus on assets, learn healthy interactions and relationships.
4. The power of peers; they act as role models, inspiration and aspiration.
5. The impact of the Recovery Community; that it’s not necessarily focussed on addiction, develops creativity, sense of community, enjoyment and fun.
Author: Aditi Bhonagiri and Nelida Señoran-Martin
The full report on FLSE’s submission with in-depth findings on the lived experience perspectives from our target group for the Independent Review of Drugs by Professor Dame Carol Black can be found here: Fulfilling-Lives-Lived-experience-Dame-Carol-Black-Independent-Review-of-Drugs.pdf (bht.org.uk)
Dame Carol Black’s recommendations on the second phase of the Review can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/review-of-drugs-phase-two-report