Personalisation must be extended into substance misuse to give users a better chance of recovery, research this week has shown.
User-led organisations should be given a statutory role in influencing the design and delivery of services, and peer support services should play a central role in helping users sustain recovery, the study by think-tank the RSA said.
Report author Rebecca Daddow said the stigma facing problem drug and alcohol users and the idea that professionals knew best had deterred service user involvement in drugs services, which was often based on “tick box” consultations.
However, the report found that genuine involvement “substantially increases the likelihood of services targeting resources where they are most likely to have a meaningful impact on an individual’s recovery”.
The study is part of the RSA’s Whole Person Recovery Project in West Sussex, which is testing personalised approaches to substance misuse, and was based on research conducted by users themselves, including a survey of 152 other drug and alcohol users from Bognor Regis and Crawley.
A number of local user-led groups have been set up in the county. West Sussex Drug and Alcohol Action Team service user co-ordinator Brian Morgan, who is in recovery himself, said they had not only shaped existing services but set up peer-support services in areas where provision was previously lacking.
“People often go through treatment and there’s no support for them so they drift back into their old networks leading to drugs and crime,” he said. “So we are trying to set up positive peer networks to promote recovery.”
The next stage of the project is to test a user-centred approach through nine pilot projects, one covering personal budgets.
Just over a quarter (27%) of those surveyed wanted a personal budget, though 60% of respondents wanted to be told how much money they could spend on services and be given a degree of responsibility for choosing who provided support.
Daddow said the personal budgets project would also be based on the results of a separate “small sparks” project.
Under this, users will be able to apply for grants of £50 to £500 to help them in recovery, with applications for items such as monthly travel passes considered by a panel of users.
Daddow said it may be more appropriate for substance misusers to pool personal budgets to purchase services collectively, given the importance of peer support in their recovery.
“I don’t think giving someone their own personal budget without this additional peer support, will benefit the person in the long-run unless they have support from their families or friends,” she added.
Morgan said: “The issue we face in West Sussex is that there isn’t a large menu of choice for people to be enabled to have a personal budget.”
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