The Family Angle: September 2017

Everything you need to know about families, drugs and alcohol.

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Families sometimes tell us that because their loved one is a drinker people don’t take their concerns seriously. They may have gone to a support group and sat next to parents or partners of people with serious heroin or crack cocaine problems and felt that their struggles with their loved one’s use of our nation’s favourite – legal – drug weren’t seen as being “on the same level”.

But we know that having a loved one with an alcohol problem can have a massive effect on your health and happiness. We know because practitioners tell us, we know because we have researched the topic ourselves (pdf), but most importantly we know this because families tell us:
“She’s done several detoxes, she done eight months in rehab, came out a week before Christmas, started drinking again which is the wrong time to come out. Then she did six months in rehab, came home for a weekend two weeks into the six months and panicked and ran into a support groups and said she wasn’t safe to be here. ‘Lock me away forever’ she said.” (A Mum)
This year we’re proud to be working in partnership with Alcohol Research UK/Alcohol Concern to focus this year’s Alcohol Awareness Week on families and carers. AAW runs from 13-19 November and will include a series of factsheets, a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm and lots more besides. We will be sharing more details over the next few weeks.

If you'd like to know more about AAW, please email Julie Symes at ARUK.
In other news
  • Do you like writing the odd poem or story? Ever found yourself writing a letter to your loved one? Now can you do all of that – and win a prize! Our Family Voices competition exists for family members to share their stories – the winner and two runners-up come to our Carol Concert as our guests, and receive a prize.
  • Do you work with someone amazing who’s gone out of their way to help someone affected by a loved one’s drug or alcohol use? Now that person can be recognised. Nominate them for this year’s Gary Seaman Award.
  • We have been been working with two family members to share their stories of substance use related bereavement in the national news, which will be appearing in the next few weeks - keep an eye out for them. If you’ve been bereaved through alcohol or drugs have a look at the BEAD website.
Oliver Standing
Director of Policy and Communications

Regional roundup

This month we have:
  • Held a regional forum in the West Midlands including a very useful presentation on the Triangle of Care and how it may be applied in a substance use context.
  • Held regional forums in the North West (Manchester) and North East (Newcastle).
  • Held a carers day at Minsteracres retreat centre in County Durham, for 25 carers from across the North East region. We consulted on their views and were hosted with a lovely lunch and wellbeing activities by the centre. Big thanks to Minsteracres for supporting this event.
To find out more about our regional work, contact Becky Allon-Smith.

Parliamentary Roundup

Melanie Onn MP asked the Prime Minister, Theresa May, whether she will review the eligibility of kinship carers for the Sure Start grant and for child tax credit ahead of the autumn Budget. Theresa May asked Melanie Onn to write to her about it.

Grahame Morris MP asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department about establishing a drugs rehabilitation programme to divert drug users from the criminal justice system towards health services. Sarah Newton, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, responded that the 2017 Drug Strategy sets out action around developing health interventions for drug using offenders.

Jonathan Reynolds MP asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans the Government has to tackle trends in the incidence of the drug known as spice. Sarah Newton responded that use of new psychoactive substances has fallen since the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act, and spice is now controlled as a class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act.


“Have your say” call for evidence – Crisis
Crisis is looking for policy solutions to help develop their plan to end homelessness. They want to hear from those with lived experience of homelessness, and those that work on the front-line, in policy or a related field. Crisis is also holding an evidence session specifically on ending women's homelessness on Friday 6 October.  For more information, email Jasmine Basran
What contributes to compassion fatigue in health professionals working in drug and alcohol services – Lancaster University
This consultation should be completed by practitioners working in front-line drug or alcohol services and asks for anonymous feedback on how compassion can be eroded over time for those in challenging roles.

Redesign of drugs and alcohol treatment services survey – Hertfordshire County Council
Hertfordshire County Council is redesigning its young people and adult substance misuse services and has developed some proposals for the new treatment system. The council would like to hear the views of Hertfordshire residents, including from families affected by drugs and alcohol.


Commissioning impact on drug treatment Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD)
The ACMD has released a new report, expressing its concern that reduced funding compounded by the frequent procurement of services is causing serious damage to the treatment system and affecting recovery outcomes. It outlines the findings from a survey of commissioners and makes recommendations including the need to mandate drug and alcohol services within local authority budgets and/or placing the commissioning of treatment within NHS commissioning structures. See here for useful analysis from Russell Webster.
Improving clinical responses to drug-related deaths – Collective Voice and NHS Substance Misuse Provider Alliance (NHS SMPA)
With drug-related deaths in England and Wales reaching the highest levels since records began in 1993, Collective Voice and NHS SMPA, with PHE’s support, have produced a set of recommendations for providers to ensure everything is done to address and reverse the worrying trend. These include the need for providers to establish clear protocols for managing the risk of overdose including the availability of naloxone.
Good Childhood Report 2017 – Children’s Society
The Children’s Society has released their sixth annual report examining how children in the UK feel about their lives. The 2017 report shows that young people’s happiness is at its lowest since 2010, with fear of crime, living in a family struggling to pay the bills and not having enough emotional support at home are some of the issues most likely to cause teenagers to be unhappy.
State of Caring 2017 – Carers UK
Carers UK's annual State of Caring survey reached 7,000 carers this year, identifying what it is like to be a carer in 2017. It found that 40% of unpaid carers have not had a break in over a year, with 42% listing ‘access to breaks’ as one of three factors which could make a difference in their lives. Other findings included that almost three quarters (73%) of carers felt that their contribution was not understood or valued by the government and almost half (46%) have suffered depression because of their caring role. 
Multiple Needs: Time for Political Leadership – Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) Coalition
In addressing ongoing crises in homelessness, substance misuse, mental ill health and persistently high re-offending rates, the MEAM coalition has emphasised the need to address these multiple needs collectively rather than individually. It calls on the government to commit to tackling the causes and consequences of multiple needs, take a collaborative approach so every department is on the same page, establish clear expectations for local area to take effective action and to ensure that flexible funding is available to encourage services to work together and respond to local needs.

In Focus: Peer-led support for families

Overcoming the barriers to family members accessing support

It is with great pleasure that I share below the work I have do in Greenwich managing a peer-led support project for families impacted by a loved one’s substance misuse. Our project, which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund, raises awareness of the impact of substance misuse on the family and supports family members in their own right, irrespective of whether their loved one is accessing treatment. Our peer mentors, called Family Recovery Champions, are positive role models in the community - this year alone we have reached over 45 family members.

Family Recovery Champions attend local treatment service drop-ins weekly to meet other family members attending in support of their loved ones. Our peer mentors are there at a time of great need - waiting in the reception area of the drop-ins. This works very well. Family members are often in crisis, in fear of the unknown future, or desperate in the hope that this time their loved one will stop using or reduce their use.

There are so many barriers that prevent family members from accessing support. It’s common to hear family members say:

"I don’t need any support; it’s my son who has the problem."
"I don’t have the time, and the last thing I want to do is focus more on my daughter's drug use after years of letting my life by overtaken by my daughter's drug use."
"No one told me about family support."

Having a physical presence at the drop-ins allows us to ask "how are you?". This gives the family member space to reflect whilst their loved one is in an appointment - often for the first time - and hear about other local support options. Peer mentors have an authenticity that professionals may be perceived to lack – they can share their own experiences and encourage other family members to take up further support.

I also oversee the London Families Network Forum which meets quarterly. The network has been a real eye opener since I joined Adfam in July 2016, hearing about the many challenges faced by family support workers in the field, as well as the many creative ways practitioners overcome these challenges. If you’d like to be part of this fantastic group, please email me.

Emma Spiegler
Family Support Development Manager
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