Chief Exec's blog - a Drug Strategy that supports us to do more for people affected by substance misuse

node leader
14 July 2017

Phoenix Chief Exec Karen Biggs discusses the new drug strategy in her latest blog.

 Our experience over the last 50 years at Phoenix shows us most families are affected by substance misuse and all families want their loved ones to get good effective treatment. 

We know what treatment works and the new Drug Strategy published today by the Government sets out some clear priorities that, we hope, will help people across the country get the support they need, when they need it. 

At Phoenix we know without good friends, decent housing, high levels of health and wellbeing and a feeling of self-worth, no amount of treatment is going to lead to a successful recovery. This strategy sets out a clear ambition from the Government to target treatment interventions to address the reasons people become addicted to substances and to support people into decent housing and employment.

Drug Misuse cause a wide range of social and health harm and costs. It is a both a cause and consequence of wider factors including physical and mental health, employment, housing, family life and crime issues.

The strategy recognises that some people need specialist services to help them deal with the causes of their addiction. At Phoenix we run a specialist residential service for women, Grace House. Many women who come to Grace House have experienced significant trauma in their lives. Through targeted specialist support, we are able to help women address their addiction and crucially deal with the issues that led to it. That takes expertise from dedicated professionals and also takes time spent in a supportive environment. We were very pleased to welcome the Home Secretary to Grace House on International Women’s Day this year, to speak with the residents and to see for herself how with the right support women can move on from the most traumatic circumstances and create a positive meaningful happy life for themselves and their families.

What the women at Grace House tell me most often is the shame they feel about their experiences. That shame comes from the stigma that people affected by substance misuse experience. In the strategy the Government have announced their intention to appoint a national Recovery Champion who will report into a new Drug Strategy Board chaired by the Home Secretary and including representatives from the wider government departments. One of the roles of the Recovery Champion will be to

‘Seek to address stigma faced by people with drug or alcohol dependency issues.’

There is certainly a lot of important work to do. At Phoenix we are committed to giving people in treatment and recovery a voice. Stigma impacts people in many ways and is very damaging. We know that it prevents people accessing the help they need and also hampers recovery. People in recovery sharing their experience helps break down stigma. Our Confident Voice campaign launched in May this year seeks to do just that.

One area people in recovery face significant stigma is in accessing decent appropriate housing that will support their recovery process.  We are very pleased to see a clear recognition from the Government in this strategy of the need for decent housing for people in recovery.

‘’will work with treatment providers, the homelessness sector and housing support services to identify and share best practice to support local authorities in identifying routes into appropriate accommodation for those recovering from a drug dependency’’

At Phoenix we know the difference housing can make to helping people keep well after treatment. We have a unique expertise in developing and delivering appropriate housing models that support people in treatment and in recovery. As a substance misuse charity and Housing Association operating nationwide, Phoenix occupies a unique position in the sector, we have a strong understanding of the links between a lack of adequate, stable accommodation and the ability of people to address substance related problems. While there are services that accommodate people in active substance use, there is a very limited supply of housing for people in, or exiting from treatment, and this seriously undermines their efforts to achieve recovery. Across the country there are high levels of homelessness amongst the treatment population, many of whom face unique problems. We have committed to delivering more of our housing models over the next three years and are pleased to see such a clear acknowledgement from the Government about this important priority.

We all know that local authorities have difficult funding decisions to make across the whole spectrum of health and social care services. At Phoenix we are lucky enough to work with many local authorities that recognise the value of drug treatment to the individual in addiction and their families. The new strategy sets out some important priorities for all concerned with the impact of drugs on our society. The Government has made it clear that the ambitions of the strategy can only be achieved through effective partnership working.

At Phoenix we are in no doubt our work helps people and their families recover from the devastating impact of substance misuse.

We are glad to see the government committing to a number of critical measures that we hope will ensure everyone can get the vital help they need when they need it wherever they are in the country.


Phoenix Futures is a registered charity in England and Wales (No 284880) and in Scotland (No SCO39008); Company Limited by Guarantee Number 1626869; Registered Provider of Social Housing with Homes England (H3795).