By Alexandra Galvin, Senior Researcher at The Centre for Social Justice.
Addiction impacts the health, well-being, and social fabric of our communities. The aftermath of prolonged lockdowns and the rapid rise in inflation has intensified the struggle with addiction. While the recently shaped ten-year drugs strategy signals progress, the stark reality persists – recent ONS figures show 4,907 deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales, the highest number since records began in 1993.
Amidst this crisis, two charities, G.A.S.P.E.D and Happy Days UK, stand at the forefront, tirelessly working to reshape lives, battle addiction, and aid individuals on their recovery journeys.
G.A.S.P.E.D. (Giving Advice and Support to People in Emotional Distress) has been a stalwart in West Yorkshire communities since 1995, addressing mental health issues, addictive behaviours, suicide, domestic abuse, and sexual violence. The charity is committed to providing non-judgemental supportive services, empowering individuals to overcome challenges and fostering confidence.
Founded in response to a parent’s personal experience caring for a son battling drug addiction, G.A.S.P.E.D. has evolved significantly. Today, it works extensively with male victims/survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence, addressing emotional resilience, self-esteem, poverty, and isolation.
The charity’s person-centred approach involves listening to individuals’ experiences, giving them a voice in shaping their recovery. G.A.S.P.E.D. actively collaborates with partners to deliver mental health support, forming a robust network in West Yorkshire.
G.A.S.P.E.D.’s reputation for providing confidential, non-judgemental advice and support is well-established. From supporting families dealing with addiction to aiding long-term unemployed individuals in building emotional resilience, G.A.S.P.E.D. is deeply ingrained in the community.
This charity takes a crucial step beyond initial addiction treatment by offering essential Stage 2 recovery support, a service often perceived as lacking in statutory services. Recognising that the journey to recovery extends beyond initial treatment, G.A.S.P.E.D plays a pivotal role in aiding individuals to reintegrate into society after being free from drug use. Recovering addicts, upon achieving sobriety, often face the daunting task of establishing stable housing, acquiring life skills, navigating benefits systems, and cultivating a sense of community. This is where G.A.S.P.E.D steps in, acting as a bridge to normal living.
By providing comprehensive support in these critical areas, the charity addresses the holistic needs of individuals in recovery, facilitating a smoother transition and empowering them to build sustainable, fulfilling lives beyond addiction.
Happy Days UK’s core purpose is to support and empower people in crisis to live independently and purposefully. The charity achieves this through accommodation, routine, healthy food, health clinics, and comprehensive advice and support, fostering sustainable positive change.
In alignment with its vision and values, Happy Days UK operates diverse services to meet the needs of those facing the cost-of-living crisis. The Engagement Service plays a pivotal role in assisting individuals who have often severed ties with family, friends, and services. Recognising that being signposted to services is insufficient for those with compromised mental and physical health, Happy Days UK connects people with specialised help, ensuring continuous support until they are fully engaged and supported. Additionally, the service offers walk-in support for accommodation, benefits, mental health, and addiction, conducting regular healthcare drop-in clinics at The Gathering Place. These clinics cover wound care, sexual health, and Hepatitis C.
Another vital service is the Halifax Community Supermarket, a membership-based initiative replacing the traditional Food Bank. This approach empowers individuals by providing greater choice and control. Members can shop weekly, selecting up to 15 items with a small charge of £6. Toiletries are available monthly at a cost of £2 for up to 4 items. All members can open a Credit Union account, credited with £1 for each shopping trip.
The Community Café at The Gathering Place is an inclusive space open to all on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays between 12:30 pm-1:30 pm. It offers free hot meals and desserts, fostering a sense of community and support. The café, with freshly cooked on-site food, serves as a crucial tool in combating isolation, a potential trigger for relapse.
In terms of accommodation, Happy Days UK operates its Supported Accommodation services, collaborating closely with housing associations and the council’s Housing Options team to determine the best solution for each individual. The intensively supported housing scheme targets men over 25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The scheme is designed for those seeking intensive support to transition to independent living within two years, involving engagement in the three-stage Happy Life Programme. Additionally, Happy Days UK manages 68 independent living flats, providing affordable accommodation in a community setting. These flats offer weekly drop-in support services to prevent homelessness and support tenants in sustaining their tenancy.
As Happy Days UK continues its mission, it remains steadfast in its commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of those experiencing homelessness or crisis.
In the wake of the addiction crisis, G.A.S.P.E.D and Happy Days UK emerge as beacons of hope, tirelessly battling the formidable challenges faced by individuals and communities. As we reflect on their impactful work, it becomes evident that these charities extend their reach far beyond immediate assistance.
Looking forward, both G.A.S.P.E.D and Happy Days UK continue to sow seeds of change, not only within their local communities but also by actively engaging with the wider landscape. Their commitment to collaboration and sharing expertise stands as a testament to the ripple effect of compassion.
Visits to both charities are part of a wider research report the CSJ is conducting on the state of addiction in the UK. Both charities provided invaluable firsthand insights that contribute to a comprehensive understanding of addiction challenges. The CSJ’s research report aims to amplify their voices, advocating for policy changes that will uplift and support the most vulnerable in their journey to recovery.
These charities are not merely addressing symptoms; they are investing in sustainable solutions to tackle addiction.