The life-saving Lancashire substance abuse service Inspiring people to make a change
It’s a point which Rachael Taylor, the Social Value Lead with Change Grow Live’s ‘Inspire East Lancashire’ service, emphasises on a few occasions during our chat. “Drug and alcohol abuse doesn’t discriminate,” she says simply. “And we’re here for everybody and anybody.”
Dedicated to all aspects of drug and alcohol treatment - from referrals to recovery - Inspire is an arm of Change Grow Live, a national health and social care charity. Commissioned by Lancashire County Council, it operates across the county, having had a presence in the North West for the past 10 years.
“We support anybody who is affected by drug or alcohol abuse and provide education and raise awareness around substance misuse and the issues which come along with it,” says Rachael of the not-for-profit service. “We work with people from all walks of life - people who are 18 and people in their 80s - and help them make positive changes.
“Whatever their goals are for themselves, we’ll support them,” she adds. “That’s why we do a lot of work on reducing the stigma around substance abuse, because education helps people understand what leads people to it in the first place.”
The charity’s East Lancashire branch alone has around 70 members of staff and has been singled out by the Social Value Quality Mark CIC for the good the service does in the area. In fact, studies show that for every £1 invested, the community saw an equivalent £5.80 return, equating to an additional value of just over £74m to the local economy.
“I’d worked in the sector for a number of years in Kirklees and Leeds before moving across the Pennines and this is the longest time I’ve spent in a single role,” explains Rachael, who has been with Inspire East Lancashire since 2012. “It’s a really special place; substance abuse isn’t an easy area to work in, but seeing Inspire grow is really fulfilling and to see people achieving their goals and making positive changes, not only for themselves but also for their families, is great.
“It reminds you why you do the job,” she adds. “We see some not-very-nice things but the good outweighs the bad, which is rewarding and makes you proud. It also gives you hope and shows that people can change; when you see someone get their life back on track, you see the impact that has on the individual and it brings you a real sense of joy.”
County Councillor Shaun Turner is LCCC’s cabinet member for health and well-being and firmly agrees with Rachael when she highlights the positive impact the charity has had in the area.
“Inspire makes a fantastic contribution to communities across Lancashire,” he says. “[Their] invaluable service helps people to recover from addiction and, crucially, supports them to rebuild their lives; many people get a job after overcoming an addiction and this helps them contribute to their community and the economy.
“Because people’s physical and mental well-being improves, they have a much better quality of life and are less likely to need hospital treatment, reducing the pressure on our NHS,” adds Shaun. “There are many other social and economic benefits brought about by their work.”
Usually offering a broad spectrum of in-person services - from clinical intervention, medical intervention, and group work to supporting people to return to education or employment, counseling, needle exchanges, and social activities - the charity has pivoted online during the pandemic.
“It was all hands to the pump and, while it’s not been easy, we’ve stepped up to the challenge,” says Rachael. “To see how our volunteers and peer mentors came up with innovative ways to keep in touch with people was great.
“Our service is a lifeline for some people, so it’s been about how we can reach out to people to make sure they’re okay,” she continues.
“We wanted to make sure people had purpose.”