Mulberry Community Project is an independant charity working for people in recovery. We are a non-commissioned service offering a unique service in Blackpool and it has been very successful and has saved lives. We do not want to be a commissioned service because that would change our ethos and the way we do things and we would then become answerable to commissioners. However we would like to be recognised for the brillient work we do and we would like to be included and used by the other services in Blackpool. What are your thoughts on this? Should services exclude us from the recovery scene or should the people seeking recovery be encouraged to ask what we do? It raises the question of human rights and social justice if people are being denied the right to be shown the best route for them and their addiction/recovery.
Mulberry Community Project.
What is it? What does it do? Why does it do it?
What is it?
Mulberry is a Supported Housing Project charity that saves lives through helping people sustain abstinence from drugs/alcohol. There have been numerous people who have been through Mulberry and they will tell you quite frankly that Mulberry has literally saved their lives. Most of our residents are either post treatment or post prison and have already made a commitment to seek abstinence as a way forward for their lives. They have now left treatment or prison and they are now left to seek their own recovery in what can often be a harsh world where there are temptations and pitfalls everywhere. The rate of relapse is well documented post treatment with anything up to a 90% relapse rate. Coming out of a prison environment will be no different. At Mulberry we give people a safe secure environment where they can explore their road to recovery while living in the "real world" such as the rest of us have to live in. We provide an holistic environment where people can not only have a safe place to live but also room to find new friends in recovery, somewhere to educate themselves, somewhere to look and find volunteering roles or somewhere to work. We have several groups a week where we look at recovery and people are encourage to attend groups outside of Mulberry so they can build up a circle of people who are also in recovery. Mulberry is a mechanism whereby people who want extra support on leaving the bubble that is rehab/prison can get that support and supervision.
What does it do?
Mulberry puts together people seeking support to maintain abstinence and helps them find their road to recovery. We provide mutual support through meetings, we provide 1-2-1 support through a keyworker and we provide a safe secure living environment while people are seeking their recovery. We also look at living skills and help with those as and where we can so that residents are able to cope when moving into their own independent living.
Why does it do it?
Mulberry does what it does because there was a massive yawning chasm when people in treatment were leaving treatment and trying to cope in the real world. For most people it was too much and there is a very high rate of relapse. The reason for starting Mulberry was to try to save people relapsing at this very vulnerable stage in their recovery journey therefore saving the pain and anguish of relapse, the revolving door scenario and the cost to the taxpayer and the other costs such as reoffending rates.
Does it work?
The plain and simple answer is yes it works for some and no it does not work for others which actually confirms the view that the support is something that is really needed and only confirms the argument that the service is valuable. The fact that we have heard so many times from people that without the support we gave they would have been dead is confirmation enough. If we only save one person then it has been worth it. We have had people leaving us and going into full time work and therefore paying taxes and putting back into society where before all they did was take and that is proof enough that it works. We know that we have stopped people reoffending and therefore stopped them going back into prison so we know that it works and it saves money by not sending people back into prison life. We have turned people’s lives around and helped them seek their dream of abstinence. Even the people who have relapsed have tasted what recovery is like and enjoyed the experience and some have started the walk again knowing what they are seeking to achieve with a clearer understanding of what being abstinent is all about so the Mulberry experience has not been wasted even on the people who have not made it.
Why is Mulberry not welcomed?
Is Mulberry not welcomed? Mulberry has not been made welcome in Blackpool by commissioners or the local council and that has been made very clear to us over the years as we have had only 1 referral during the 4 years we have been in operation from the services in Blackpool. We tried to make a referral to a service in Blackpool last week and we were told that we could not do so! We have been told by workers inside the services that they have been told not to make any referrals to us and Blackpool Council complain because we are seen as bringing all our residents in from outside of Blackpool. Indeed one councilor was complaining that we brought our people up from London and the south. Of the people we currently have with us in Mulberry we have 7 Blackpool people, 10 who have a connection with the Fylde Coast and only 2 from outside. There are other projects that operate in Blackpool that are bringing in non Blackpool people without a 3 year connection and settling them in Blackpool and yet they receive funding from the council for doing the same thing that brings condemnation to us. The money we have saved the commissioners and the council over the 4 years of operation is considerable when you consider that we have stopped the revolving door of rehab and stopped petty crime etc of people now working their recovery and not relapsing. I believe we have even helped reduce the bad publicity for Blackpool if we have stopped people dying here through their habit.
- We state that we have saved lives because that is what we have been told and in our eyes that is good whether they are from Blackpool or from elsewhere. You cannot place a monetary value on a life.
- We have saved Blackpool money because we really are cost effective with what we do and we save the cost of sending people for more detox/rehabs treatments, we save money sending people back to prison, we save the town money because we are stopping peoples anti-social behaviour and we save the NHS money because they are not attending hospitals with problems related to active using.
- Society in Blackpool benefits through the work we do as we are sending people back to work, we are sending them to college for education, we are encouraging people in volunteer work. We have residents who have left us and gone into full time work while living an independent abstinent based lifestyle. These are Blackpool people who have had years of previous drug/alcohol misuse but are now leading productive useful lives and putting something back into Blackpool.
- Recovery Hub. We now run the Mulberry Recovery Hub in Blackpool and they are used by SMART recovery groups, AA and NA groups now helping people in Blackpool with their recovery journey. We often have people dropping in and asking for help and where possible we do albeit sometimes just by signposting to other services foodbanks etc.
We are proud of what Mulberry has done and the good it has achieved and we are especially proud of the people who have been through Mulberry and are leading a great life. We will not stop what we are doing despite it being a struggle at times because the benefits to individuals and to Blackpool are priceless and Blackpool would be a poorer place without the help and compassion that show as a charity.
What do you think?