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It’s been a milestone year for Red Rose Recovery. We’ve almost doubled in size, welcoming into the fold dozens of new staff who are using their own lived experience to make a difference in the lives of others. We’ve advocated for vulnerable communities through the Changing Futures initiative and partnered with the NHS to provide one-to-one support for people living with mental health challenges. The multi-award-winning Liaison and Diversion service has gone from strength to strength, while Roots Community, our brand-new service user forum in Blackburn with Darwen, has got off to a flying start. Having received royal recognition with our Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2018, this year we went on to gain ‘Royle’ recognition from one Ricky Tomlinson who, alongside Elbow’s Guy Garvey, paid tribute to Red Rose Recovery’s achievement as we celebrated our ten-year anniversary.

But there’s still so much work to be done. The cost-of-living crisis, fuel poverty, housing insecurity and public service cutbacks have affected our community disproportionately – it often feels as though those with the least resources and resilience are forced to shoulder the greatest burdens. Drug-related deaths rose once again, continuing a trend that began in 2012 and, tragically, shows little sign of slowing. The recent cold snap drew attention to the scourge of homelessness – here, in the world’s sixth largest economy.

Many of us will find ourselves in a reflective mood as Christmas approaches and, given everything described above, despair may feel like the most rational response. But the first of Red Rose Recovery’s six values is hope, and it is in this spirit that we look to the year ahead with a determination to play our part in making it a little better than the last.

At last week’s Christmas LUF meeting, we asked attendees to write down their wishes – big or small – for 2023.

The theme connecting all of them was a plea for compassion for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our communities – especially those experiencing homelessness, the eradication of which was by far the most prominent theme among our ‘wishers’, with one describing it as a “21st century scandal.” Suggestions included:

  • “More support for the homeless to secure a home”
  • “All homeless people to be housed or sheltered”
  • “More night homeless shelters. Less street homelessness. Washing and shower facilities for those that need them”
  • “Somewhere the homeless can wash/shower and have a change of clothes”
  • “A winter night shelter for the homeless people of Lancaster and Morecambe…and peace on earth”

A second theme was that of services working collaboratively so that people can access the right support at the right time:

  • “I sincerely hope there is a more integrative approach by community services with an aim of supporting those in need of help”
  • “I hope that we can get more projects up and running to help our community”
  • “More financial support for services and more services working together”
  • “To have a world-class recovery service across the board, accessible to all”
  • “Local government to provide more resources towards recovery and other social issues”

Others indicated the need for a focus on families, children, and young people, including early interventions and meaningful activities to provide structure and purpose:

  • “My wish is for better funded services and more financial support for low-income families”
  • “More groups and volunteering opportunities for young adults”
  • “Community centres with regular activities for children and young people”
  • “Preventative measures in schools, using workshops and real-life stories”

Finally, a number of contributors stressed the need for more and better supported accommodation for people in recovery, as well as help for those moving on from recovery housing:

  • “More social housing for people moving on from supported living”
  • “My Christmas wish is for more social housing and shelters, and easier ways to find suitable housing
  • “Help with housing after recovery housing”
  • “More help for the homeless, and RRR to have its own recovery home!”
  • “I would like a Red Rose Recovery house!”

We also asked Red Rose staff to share their wishes for 2023 – here is a selection:

“My wish for this new year is for us to be kinder to each other – if we all had a willingness to learn about each other’s lives and struggles, listening without judgement, it would remove so many barriers for those seeking recovery. Visible recovery is important!”

Sarah O’Mara, North Locality Lead

“My New Year’s wish is for a more robust scheme for our homeless with more support and faster responses; and for everyone to treat each other with love, respect and understanding without judgement”

Emma McCrudden, Mental Health Peer Support Worker

“My wish for the coming year is that all services work together in love and compassion, being beneficiary-focused and person-centred; also, treating one another with love, and inspiring hope in people where they are struggling to find it.”

Emma Pratt, Community Engager

“My wish for the new year is to help more people in need where I can, and to get more confidence to speak about my own experiences in front of other people, to help give hope.”

Gerard Woodburn, Online Community Engager

“I think it would be awesome to start our own recovery housing at Red Rose, with a new model based on what we know works (and what doesn’t).”

Gary Flynn, Mental Health Peer Support Worker

I’m just wishing and hoping that more clients get drug-/drink-free and stay that way. Recovery really works!

Kris Rowlands, Volunteer

“My wish for 2023 is that people start to realise that, in many cases, the issue isn’t simply drink and drugs – they’re a solution to people’s problems, or that’s how it feels to them. The real issues are far deeper than that: they’re wrapped around inequality, lack of opportunity, lack of purpose and meaning, trauma, poverty – these are the real issues. So my wish is that people start to gain a better understanding of what those issues are so we can seek to find a solution together. And everyone’s got a part to play in that – not just the people that are affected by it, but our whole community.”

Peter Yarwood, Director of Strategy and Engagement / Red Rose Recovery Founder

By Jennie Chapman