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In January ‘Build on Belief’ (BoB)
officially launched our charity
from the House of Lords.
It was the culmination of a little over nine years
hard work by more than 500 volunteers, who had
designed, implemented and run their own
independent service user organisation since 2005.
BoB runs socially based weekend services and, lately,
recovery cafés across West London, enabling a seven-
day-a-week service provision in those boroughs.
A month later I was asked to speak at the
DDN
National Service User Conference on some of the
things we had learned over the years about building
and running an independent service user charity. I
was delighted to be asked because I believe that
service user involvement has changed the
treatment system for the better and that peer-run
projects are the future. So with that in mind, here
are some of the things we’ve learned.
Independence:
Although difficult to do,
independence from service providers or the local
authority is important. It allows the freedom to
experiment, makes it easier to avoid being unduly
influenced by the agenda of another organisation,
and most importantly by far, empowers people to
take control of their own service and their own lives.
No specific model of addiction or recovery:
BoB
does not differentiate between drugs and alcohol,
and neither does it advocate any particular model of
addiction or recovery. We believe that recovery is a
profoundly personal viewpoint and therefore
journey, and by taking a particular stance, you risk
excluding those who do not agree with it. Therefore
all models are valid, because, in essence, we see
recovery quite simply as reintegration into society
without dependence on a mind-altering substance.
This did cause some interesting discussions
14 |
drinkanddrugsnews
| March 2014
Make It Happen! |
Service user conference 2014
www.drinkanddrugsnews.com
‘S
ervice user involvement is something I’ve been doing for ten years and something I believe in very
strongly,’
Tim Sampey
of Build on Belief (BoB) told the conference. His organisation had been built
up exclusively by service users, without professional involvement, he stressed.
Recovery should be enjoyable, he said, which was why one of the key elements of BoB was a social club.
‘I realised early on that there’s something about getting together and having fun, and I’m a service user so
I say what service user involvement is. But you have to negotiate. I ended up sitting on the DAAT and I didn’t
understand it, but we learned to negotiate.’
It was also vital not to be afraid to try something new, he stated. ‘Amateurs built the ark but professionals
built the Titanic. Work as a team – control freaks kill. Some of the best things to have come out of BoB were
done by other people.’
Services and commissioners were obliged to engage with service users, he told the conference. ‘What I
didn’t realise for years and years and years was that they need us more than we need them. They have to
have service user involvement – it’s written into their contracts. We hold all the cards.’
He had set up BoB because he was ‘tired of talking’, he said. ‘I didn’t want to be identified as an ex-
addict. I wanted to be identified as a human being, and to do that you have to get back into the community.
You need to give people a place to belong, friends around them and fun. BoB means getting yourself a life,
and I’d die by that statement. My recovery belongs to me – I own it. If I mess it up I mess it up, but you may
not tell me how to live.’
The vital thing was to ‘do it yourself’ and learn to take risks, he said. Anyone could access BoB, with 80-
90 per cent of the organisation’s volunteers in recovery and the rest from the local community. ‘We built
a family for ourselves. It wasn’t easy – it was hard, hard work. You need to get used to people getting in
your face, to people not liking you. One of the weaknesses we sometimes have as a community is an
attitude of “gimme, gimme, gimme”, so there’s something about just going away and doing it yourself,
showing what you can do.
‘Stick with what you’re good at, stick with your strengths, and stick to your own principles,’ he urged.
‘The world is moving really fast, and the money in the treatment system is going down, but I believe you
guys are the future. We’re the people who are going to do it, who are going to set up our own services. Raise
your own money – it impresses people. We shouldn’t rely on handouts. And finally, stick to your own
recovery – define it for yourselves. You can’t go around defining other people’s, and it won’t work if you do.’
The day’s final session heard from
Tim Sampey of Build on Belief on
the importance of self-determination
Reasons to
believe
‘They need us
more than we
need them...’
TIM SAMPEY
BUILDING
ON BELIEF