A group of ex drug users came to us for support. These users met regularly under the auspices of the local social services which lent them a meeting space and a support worker, but now they wanted support to become independent, though it seemed to be the social services worker who was most keen on this idea. After an initial assessment and discussions, it was decided that an away day would be useful to do some team building and clarify exactly what it was they wanted to do. The away day went well and the group then identified a number of individual skills courses that would be helpful, such as chairing and minuting. This approach suited us and them. It suited us because it fitted with existing training provision and costs were very low, and it seemed to suit them because they were all at a point in their lives where they were receptive to new things and needed to learn some new skills.
On the face of it, it all went well. But the move to become independent didn’t really materialise despite the presence of the social services person who was a vital link to the members of the group. Part of the problem is that the social services person seemed central to keeping it all going and there was also a tendency for members of the group to break away as they gained skills and control of their lives. Though paradoxically, some of the group who got most involved in trying to set up an independent organisation found it quite stressful and there was a danger that they would take a step backwards in their personal lives due to the stresses they were being put under. Over time new members would join the group and things would go back to square one and start all over again. Maybe it is the journey – and not the destination, that was most important here. They haven’t arrived yet.