After Phoenix Scotland won an award this week for an innovative health and wellbeing project, Phoenix Director of Marketing and Innovation James Armstrong reflects on the potential of a recovery-friendly culture.
We know that recovery is made in, and by, individuals, families and communities and through meaningful relationships, purpose and finding a place of safety. In the language of recovery capital theory “through the breadth and depth of internal and external resources that can be drawn upon to initiate and sustain recovery” (Granfield & Cloud, 1999; Cloud & Granfield 2004)
Therefore thinking of recovery services in terms of service 'providers' and service 'users' is limited. Whilst we still find ourselves using the language of provider and user, increasingly we think of services as recovery-friendly environments where our people embody and offer hope, choice, incentive, motivation, guidance and confidence for change. A recovery-friendly environment encompasses the physical space of our service buildings, the passionate staff and volunteers that work within, and more broadly the parts of the open minded and empathetic wider society where people in recovery live their lives.
Ideally we’d like that recovery-friendly environment to encompass our whole society so that every human interaction is one that offers empathy and support, but we all have some work to do yet to eliminate the stigma of addiction that is still deeply entrenched in society. We know that nearly 20% of people accessing treatment in England have a housing problem (Adult substance misuse statistics from NDTMS 2015/2016) and whilst 20% people who access treatment are employed only a few of the 80% unemployed find employment during or after treatment (An Independent Review into the impact on employment outcomes of drug or alcohol addiction, and obesity - Dame Carol Black 2016). Critically drug related deaths are at record levels across England, Wales and in Scotland.
Those statistics are a powerful reminder that structural and societal stigma is affecting the ability of people in addiction and recovery to access the crucial elements of good health and wellbeing; treatment, jobs, friends and homes.
Therefore at Phoenix we find ourselves increasingly talking about both how we provide excellent treatment, and how we play our part as a charity in helping create a confident visible culture of recovery free from stigma and discrimination.
For example 3 years ago, Phoenix Scotland, led by Scotland’s Head of Operations Lyndsey Hague set out to be an active participant in a culture of recovery. Lyndsey and the Phoenix Scotland team called the approach Recovery Culture and engaged all staff, volunteers, service users and supporters to work with all other providers, charities and anyone...any business...any group...interested in making the communities in which we work a more connected and more recovery-friendly place.
Through sports activities, conservation and the arts, a wide range of accessible diverse activities provided by Phoenix, and taking part with others, we have developed a greater understanding of how we can play our part in a thriving recovery culture.
Thousands of people have taken part in activities as diverse as netball, family Easter egg hunts, theatre and dance, tennis, pride celebrations, sailing, cycling and public exhibitions of artwork to name just a few activities. Each event breaks down barriers and creates new connection across our communities.
Phoenix Scotland’s Recovery Culture project has been recently recognised by the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland Excellence awards. Recovery Culture was awarded the Excellence in Health and Wellbeing award recognising that the project helped us improve our relationship with local housing associations so that they are more aware of the commitment, passion and hard work that our service users put into their recovery. The project also enable housing providers to become more understanding of our service user’s needs and potential and therefore offer them appropriate permanent tenancies. Over the last year, this has resulted in 94% of our residents securing their own tenancy upon completion of their programme.
Lyndsey and her team, and all participants and partners, should be very proud of how they have contributed to a more understanding and connected community.