Leicester City Council praises Evesham House then paves the way for its ‘creative disappearance’.
“For every £1 invested in specialist alcohol treatment, £5 is saved on health, welfare and crime costs”*
It seems our local authority, acting in accordance with government requirements, does not wish to keep the essential service open, despite it being a money saving, and more importantly life- saving operation. It is rumoured that there shall be a new, shiny replacement catering for those needing help with substance misuse, however this has not been put in to place yet. Across the city we are seeing the decimation of services that are vital to those wishing to maintain progress with their treatment without any interim support being available, except from charitable organisations that have just seen their budgets halved. We have also seen (in the minutes of the full council meeting agenda) an agenda of misinformation, from the services to service users, from the councillors to the full council and especially in regards to Evesham House. The councillors openly praised Evesham House, a supported housing project where specially trained staff work with residents to reduce their dependency on alcohol and enable them to live independently, and then promptly suspended their ability to take new admissions and removed the support for the premises in which the service users reside. Meaning that by the end of March, when a final decision is due to be made, they can use the lack of admissions to justify ending the service.
Firstly, the PEOPLE previously residing at Evesham House WERE NOT reaching the end of their natural journey, they had to suddenly reach the end of it, in the knowledge that the service was to close. They HAD NOT all (but one or two) moved in to independent living, the staff were forced to move the residents on quickly BECAUSE THEY WERE CLOSING and, most insultingly to the staff and the organisation responsible for such a successful service residents WERE given full move on support, floating support and aftercare…. As are ALL Action Homeless residents for up to two years in their new tenancy.
In 2009 I went along to interview the staff at the newly-launched Evesham House to find out more about the service they offer and the people they rehabilitate. Along with many others I had formed a very simplistic view of alcohol users, alcohol dependency and how this may relate to an ability to maintain a tenancy. This was not a hostile view at all but it was entirely incorrect (as I humbly admitted at the time) and I endeavour now, in the face of the closure of this service, to share the reality of Evesham House, of its residents and of entrenched drinkers.
The reality is this service is essential to people who take it upon themselves to seek help for their dependency. They aren’t necessarily homeless or unemployed, everybody there is completely individual with individual backgrounds and the problem they share is that, at some point in their lives, something awful has happened that greatly upset them, and upset their lives. In an arguably misguided attempt to deal with life’s events they turned to alcohol to feel better, as many do, but for them this resulted in a habit they no longer had the strength to battle alone.
So the residents all sought help by taking themselves to a safe place, with ongoing care and people thoroughly supportive of them and their futures. Some left rather lovely homes to do this, some left highly respected jobs but all with a single purpose in mind… that they didn’t want to live like that anymore. So what now… for those likeminded people well aware of the intensive support they need but with nowhere to go? We have Heathfield House… a highly respectful and positive place, however the criteria for admissions does not cater for those currently struggling with dependency or for those who have an ongoing battle with rehabilitation, for Heathfield House it is required that you are 6 months clean before admission and are not currently still ‘detoxing’. This is fantastic for those that have got this far, but, for those that understand the cycles of addiction, much more initial, intensive support is required to even get people to that point.
If this were possible to do from your own home, or with floating support, then I’m certain the 1.6 million ‘dependent drinkers’ currently in Britain would have been successful in their endeavour to reduce, control, manage or even stop their habit… we know how they have tried.
*Raistrick, D Heather, N Godfrey C (2006) Review of the effectiveness of treatment for alcohol problems. London: National treatment Agency of substance misuse.