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Last month, the RSA helped review the first two years of a pioneering partnership to help people in recovery from substance misuse problems. Find out what we’ve learned so far, and our plans to bring the service out into the wider community.

Since 2012, the RSA has been working in a consortium with social welfare charity CRI and Sussex Partnership NHS Trust to help people in West Kent recovering from substance misuse problems. The West Kent Recovery Service (WKRS) is one of eight national Payment by Results pilot projects, and is one of the most challenging projects the RSA has undertaken. Through it, we hope to prove that Whole Person Recovery – our model of change that draws on personal and community-based social assets – can deliver meaningful results as part of a commissioned service.

We are now halfway through our four year delivery contract with our partners - we therefore wanted to take closer look at the work we've done so far, and understand our impact and what we've learned. On 5 March, we invited staff from the partner organisations, service users and those from external community organisations to meet in Maidstone (one of the three WKRS hub towns, the others being Gravesend and Tonbridge). 

At this meeting, the group identified five priorities for the next two years:

  1. Develop a stronger community focus, expanding the programme beyond the current Hub locations 

  2. Review and develop how we work together within the partnership and seek opportunities to collaborate with existing community-based organisations across the West Kent area

  3. Improve communication within the service and outwardly to the wider community

  4. Increase and diversify opportunities for service user involvement in shaping and delivering aspects of the programme

  5. Offer more and different opportunities regarding training, personal development and support packages to service users

The first point is perhaps the most important, as it reflects the ambition of the service to close the gap between people in recovery – who often struggle to connect with others outside the services they access – and the wider community. There are some palpable challenges that accompany this shift. Firstly, the service has a duty of care to the people using it and their recovery must always take priority, meaning the scope for experimentation is bounded by concrete practicalities. Secondly, the service already provides a wide range of activities, and new opportunities need to fit within this context.

We’ll be holding follow-up meetings throughout April: 

  • Gravesend - Tuesday 15 April 

  • Tonbridge - Wednesday 23 April 

  • Maidstone - Friday 25 April 

These participatory events will focus on action-planning, and invite regional organisations to work with us to build ‘bridges’ to the wider community. We’re particularly keen for RSA Fellows to join us, contributing their local knowledge and professional expertise. So, if you live or work in or around Gravesend, Maidstone or Tonbridge and would like to contribute to reshaping recovery in your community, please get in touch.

Stuart Taylor, Lead Whole Person Recovery Locality Manager.

Sam Thomas, Fellowship Projects Engagement Manager.


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