On the 19th September Belinda Bluff, Ellis King and Leah Carbery from Halifax Street Angels attended a conference at The Brewery Conference Centre in London called ‘Healthy Communities 2012’. This conference was to provide workshops which focused on enabling charities and other organisations to deliver ‘healthier, happier & longer lives.’
The day for us started at 10am when we arrived at The Brewery, we were greeted and given our name badges along with a programme which outlined the various ‘master-classes’ we could attend. The first we attended was entitled ‘Public health coming home: Are you ready for the responsibilities of substance misuse services?’ This was delivered by Paul Hayes the Chief Executive of the National Treatment Agency and Simon Blake OBE the Chair of Compact Voice, a charity which focuses upon the health and wellbeing of young people. They delivered an engaging talk which outlined ways in which people with alcohol and drug misuse issues could be supported and how best a charity or any other organisation could adapt to providing this support. They spoke of the successes of strategies that they were purporting, such as a fall of drug users in the last decade from 11% to 7%. Also reported was a fall in the number of people who use illegal drugs, specifically ‘hard drugs’ such as Heroine, down to 5% of all drug users. Although these statistics are far from ideal, they nonetheless show progress. They outlined a five point plan which they believed would help maintain support for drug users to help them in successfully getting off drugs and living a cleaner and healthier lifestyle, these were:
The primary aim of these points is to offer suitable treatment and support to provide the drug user the tools to move on from their drug use and live a more independent and healthier lifestyle, within an environment which does not seek to judge or condemn them but offers them support. The success of this strategy was around 30%, as quoted from their own figures.
It was then time for lunch where we were treated to a variety of meals and drinks whilst being able to walk around the hall where stalls were set up representing numerous organisations which were offering information, guidance and in addition were taking the details of some people or groups so they could follow them up later and find ways of working together. We had the good fortune ourselves of speaking with a group based in Sheffield which provided volunteer counsellors who could travel to provide professional support to anyone we may come across who needed such support.We then attended our final master-class which looked at ways services could be provided at a lower cost. As one of the speakers remarked it was ‘services on a recession budget’, in this they gave advice on how to save money in times when money is scarce and how services may need to re-adapt to the radical changes which are happening within our NHS and council services.
We then ended the day with a few hours to spare so we did what anyone should do when in London; we saw the sights, learnt about the history, took in the culture and got our pictures taken with people dressed as clowns outside parliament.
It was a great day which taught us a lot about the services available, the people that provide those services and how best we can provide the services we provide. I would recommend attending such conferences even if it is only for the inspiration which comes from listening to the work volunteers and charitable organisations are doing across our nation.
Ellis King and Belinda Bluff (Halifax Street Angels)
Healthy Communities Web Site