On 25th June 2020, the European Federation of Therapeutic Communities (EFTC) hosted a virtual COVID-19 learning event for practitioners from across the global TC movement. The aim of the event was to bring together TC professionals, from across the world, to reflect upon experiences, challenges and lessons from COVID-19, with a view to consider the future of TCs in both theory and practice. The event was attended by 40 members of the global TC community including but not limited to Australia, America, Belgium, Czechia, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the UK. It was chaired by, Karen Biggs (Chief Executive, Phoenix Futures, UK), who expressed a desire to ‘understand the commonality of our experiences as a movement,’ and opened by Phaedon Kaloterakis (Present of EFTC, KETHEA, Greece) who gave a compelling and impassioned address to participants. During his opening speech, Phaedon called for the movement to become more political ‘in the Aristotelian sense of the word in becoming more concerned citizens’, contextualising and framing the event through the provision of five observations in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic:
First, we need a stronger voice for treatment and TCs in particular so that [...] treatment becomes an integral part of the continuum of care of any national health system [...] and yes, this means more funding! Second, we have to advocate for services for the most vulnerable groups. Now! This is the time! Women, children, prisoners, refugees. Third, we should methodically design our efforts for integration; fighting the stigma – that is a constant battle - but also higher unemployment because the pandemic is bringing high unemployment. Fourthly, we should be more aware environmentally. We should educate ourselves, our staff, our members and then the public. Lastly, we should develop more efficient networks on a national level but also on an international level, reaching out to others even if [...] their views differ from our views. We need each other even more now!
(Cited in Gosling and Yates, 2020:130)
The event consisted of two separate but interconnected sections: sharing experiences and looking to the future. During the first section, four speakers - Anna Ollo (Association Proyecto Hombre, Spain), Enrico Costa (CEIS Genova, Italy), Lyndsey Wilson-Hague (Phoenix Futures, UK) and Rod Mullen (Amity Foundation, USA) – were invited to share their experience of COVID-19 management, with a particular focus on infection control and programme delivery.
The second section, led by Pauline McKeown (Coolmine, Ireland) and Karen Biggs (Phoenix Futures, UK), drew upon a series of key messages in and around how TCs had adapted to the needs and demands of a rapidly changing socio-political landscape, with a particular focus on what this means for the future of the TC movement in both the short and long term. After the event, Rowdy Yates and I co-authored a short comment piece to highlight how ‘the global TC movement has engaged in a process of looking to the past to move forward by drawing upon founding principles and prescriptions of the TC tradition, rooted in humanistic and indeed humanitarian responses to staff, client and sociocultural needs.’ If you would like to read the comment piece, please click here . Likewise, if you would like to know more about the research Helena is leading with Phoenix Futures to explore the long term impact of COVID-19 on residential TCs in England and Scotland (UK), please click here.