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One of the Citizen Power Peterborough projects, Recovery Capital examined how best to support people in Peterborough with problems associated with drug and/or alcohol use and how to develop better collaboration between organisations and individuals. It linked in with the city’s Family Recovery Project (a local version of the government’s Troubled Family Programme) which engaged service users in the design of new ideas to help them become more resilient.

Peterborough had a higher than regional average injecting drug using population, drug related crime was said to be, on some measures, four times the national average, and levels of existing recovery capital were generally low amongst both drug and alcohol users. 

'Recovery Capital' refers to the personal, social, community and cultural resources that exist which initiate and sustain recovery.

Recovery Capital included a number of elements:

  •  A local stakeholder event was held in January 2011 with 20 drug and alcohol service users, service providers and community organisations. This identified the areas of the city being most challenged by drug and alcohol use, and potential barriers or gaps when it comes to accessing treatment.

  • In May 2011 the RSA and the National Treatment Agency (NTA) East held a joint Recovery Champion Expert Symposium. It brought together 80 participants identified as strategic, therapeutic or community recovery champions within the East of England region with several leading figures in the recovery field participating.

  • Around 150 interviews were carried out with people in Peterborough who have current issues or a history with drug or alcohol abuse, including 25 people from HMP Peterborough. This provided an overview of how service users view local agencies and identified the different groups and networks they engage with. It began to assess what personal, social, community and cultural resources exist to initiate and sustain recovery, and identified a need for more safe places for people to come together to provide mutual support.

  • This research provided a benchmark for understanding the extent of existing levels of recovery capital and social networks in Peterborough and was presented to Peterborough City Council, the Safer Peterborough Partnership and the local Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT).

  • In January 2012 using this research, an event took place to begin co-designing services focusing on the ‘whole person’ with everyone involved across the various organisations including service provider CRI and service users. This also started a process to create a tool to measure recovery capital and to use it in a meaningful way.

  • A peer support group was set up in order to get to know the recovery community better, to establish links within the community and provide positive role models. Art classes, a cooking competition with the Royal Northern Hotel and exercise classes were started with an additional offer by the council of space to meet in the community hub at 439 Lincoln Road. The group continue to meet themselves, and have decided to be called the FREE group (Free Recovery for Everyone).

  • Recovery coaching training took place in spring and summer 2012 with prisoners, service users, mental health practitioners and volunteers including the Samaritans. All the respondents to the evaluation interviews have reported an increase in confidence and are using new skills and techniques following this training.

After Recovery Capital completed, FREE continued to work with the drug treatment provider to develop the service. The council has said a number of the founding members of FREE have now moved on entirely, ready to completely sever their links to drug treatment-based support.

  • The Peterborough City Council task and finish group found that Recovery Capital has already delivered a strong legacy. Involving service users in the development of treatment programmes has been a critical step in improving local services.

  • The project has improved understanding of the needs of the drug using population, developing service provision, encouraging better support groups and will undoubtedly assist in some hardened drug users to recover from their addictions.

  • Recovery Capital has provided positive role models to encourage more people to access the support they need to start their own recovery journey.

  • There was a hope among officials involved in the project that the principles of user-designed services can be replicated across other council services.

This RSA project worked in partnership with Peterborough City Council and Arts Council England.