Voice North Tyneside: The c...

Voice North Tyneside: The crucial importance of lived experience and providing opportunities to be heard

July 2023

3 Min Read

Community Development & Recovery Worker Adam talks about introducing a forum for people in recovery using services through NTRP, and other projects and aspects of his role supporting people throughout their recovery journey.

My name is Adam and I work for Changing Lives as a Community Development & Recovery Worker at North Tyneside Recovery Partnership. My role involves two main parts. The first is facilitating various recovery groups for people with problems with addiction, and on an average day this takes up most of my time. The other part of my job involves building links with other community organisations, so this gets me out and about in the community which I enjoy.

Recently, myself and one of my colleagues were tasked with re-establishing a forum for people using the services through NTRP. This is intended to be a group incorporating people in treatment with us at all stages of their recovery journeys, as well as those on the outskirts of our service, for example people who have recently successfully completed treatment and been discharged. We work directly with commissioners and various other stakeholders, and have ambitious plans for this group. We are in a very early stage of development, but have been meeting fortnightly and recently held our fifth meeting.

The main purpose of this group is to provide a way for the voice of people with lived experience (of addiction, treatment services, and often related services such as the DWP, probation, mental health services, social services, local authority etc.) to contribute more effectively to decision making at a higher level. For example, we have been asked by commissioners to provide consultation with our group members regarding an early draft of the council's new North Tyneside drug strategy.

Another intended purpose of our forum will be to raise the profile of addiction services and to promote visible recovery in the community. We have a lot of ideas for projects to work on, but have identified a few to get started with first.

This July, five forum members are due to attend the Drink and Drug News 2023 national conference in Birmingham. This will be attended by about 500 people involved in addiction treatment services, and will be a great chance to network. We hope to discuss with other groups what is being done nationally along the same lines as our group. We have been given a stall at the conference, and intend to use it to display a mini gallery / exhibition of artwork produced by some of the people in treatment with us. I have been extremely impressed by the quality of submissions we have had for this. We ran sessions with our group to come up with a name and logo, settling on “Voice North Tyneside”, and have produced T-shirts with this logo for the 5 of us attending the conference.

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Another project we are in discussion with commissioners about is a piece of research joint with Newcastle University, focusing on a “community asset mapping” exercise. This is still under discussion, but if it goes ahead it will be a 12 month project involving volunteers from our group. There are many different groups working on issues relating to addiction and recovery across North Tyneside, but the current situation can be a bit fragmented, with different groups not always aware of each other and what else is going on. We would aim to produce a detailed map of such groups, and a directory for people wishing to engage. This would be intended to promote cooperation and engagement. We would also produce a report highlighting where future allocation of resources could be most effective.

As part of our research, we have visited other groups working on similar projects, and talked with people who have been involved with service user forums in the past. We have sent some of our group members on training courses covering topics such as “minute taking for voluntary organisations” and “professional boundaries”, and we have plans for more training. There has been a lot of enthusiasm from people wishing to get involved, and it is exciting to be involved in this right from the start and to be able to influence the direction all of this takes. This side of my role is very new to me, but I find myself enjoying it and looking forward to future developments.