Press release

Recovering alcohol and drug users leading service planning

PHE shows the benefits of involving recovering alcohol and drug users designing and developing treatment for themselves and others.

Discussion roundtable

Public Health England (PHE) has launched a new guide showing the benefits of involving recovering alcohol and drug users in the design and development of their own, and others treatment and recovery.

PHE’s Service User Involvement guide describes 4 different levels of service user involvement, from co-developing one’s own care plan through to initiating and running recovery-focused enterprises. The guide showcases a number of examples of unique services from across the country that have been set-up by, or run by, former alcohol and drug users.

Through tailored and flexible approaches that aim to provide skills and training, these services promote and maintain long-term recovery often acting as a crucial step into employment. Their involvement in services at all levels increases confidence in, and suitability of the services, while seeing the successful stories of others in recovery motivates those still working to achieve recovery.

Rosanna O’Connor, Director of alcohol, drugs and tobacco at PHE said;

Those who have recovered from addiction themselves have the experiences, and often the expertise, to help others and can make an important contribution to the development of successful services.

We know that the journey to recovery from addiction is challenging and different people need different things to get there, from family and friends to jobs and homes, as well as whatever specialist treatment and support might be needed. Flexible approaches that engage the service users are essential to meeting these needs.

User-led projects vary across the country but they are generally practical in focus, offering structured support, training and employment opportunities that are relevant to the local community. RECOVER, a furniture up-cycling project in Hertfordshire was set-up and is run by those in recovery.

Ian Block, Manager of RECOVER said;

RECOVER was created around and is driven forward by those using the service, these people feel ownership, pride and commitment to our vibrant enterprise. This in turn has supported recovery journeys beyond treatment all the way to reintegration with communities, employment and dramatic increases in self-esteem, self-confidence and feelings of self-worth and value.

The new guide, launched at PHE’s national Experts by Experience: The assets brought by recovering drug and alcohol users to treatment and recovery event, coincides with September’s International Recovery Month. The month provides an opportunity to raise awareness and understanding of addiction, celebrating those who have achieved successful recovery.


Background information

  1. PHE’s Service user involvement: A guide for drug and alcohol commissioners, providers and service users captures some of the progress made over the last decade in service user involvement, and confirms that it remains a priority, making suggestions for local service development and recommendations about how best practice may be identified, replicated and built upon.
  2. RECOVER is a vibrant furniture up-cycling social enterprise, creating pathways into volunteering and work. At its heart is a commitment to sustainability: up-cycling old unwanted furniture or working with materials either donated or reclaimed from the local area.
  3. Two case studies of experiences from the recovery community, from Red Rose Recovery in Lancashire, are available from Audioboom.
  4. PHE’s national event; Experts by Experience: The assets brought by recovering drug and alcohol users to treatment and recovery highlights the help and support provided by people in recovery to those with alcohol and drug problems, through their contribution to formal treatment services, their delivery of mutual aid, and the development of innovative asset-based community developments.
  5. International Recovery Month, now in its 25th year, raises awareness and understanding of substance use disorders and celebrates those who have achieved recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.
  6. Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Website: Twitter: @PHE_uk, Facebook:
Published 7 September 2015