In her regular column highlighting local projects, charities and services, Link4Growth volunteer Debra Oakaby finds a local lifeline
Alcohol Awareness Week is happening this month and its theme is ‘knowing the risks’ – so I decided to get to know what support is available locally.
I found Lifeline Waltham Forest; a free, safe and confidential drug and alcohol service for any adult who lives in the borough. Faye Engeham, a community development worker at Lifeline’s Engagement and Treatment Hub in Beulah Road, Walthamstow, showed me around.
Outside, community garden beds are maintained by the local residents’ association and free vegetables are often available. Inside, there is a range of advice and information available and services are integrated, so people can access what they need in one place.
Approximately one-fifth of the population in Waltham Forest is drinking above the recommended limit and the rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions for 2011/12 was higher than England and London averages.
Faye knows that walking through the front door can be a huge first step for people who are understandably anxious, and likely to be motivated by fears about their health. Her message is: “Come in, have a chat and a hot drink together either here or in Chingford.”
According to Alcohol Concern: “The costs to individuals, families and society of not tackling alcohol abuse are very substantial and increasing.”
Lifeline welcomes family and friends of individuals affected by drugs and alcohol issues, who often feel isolated and even ashamed. They offer free support groups and counselling services.
It is estimated that 14,765 people aged 16 to 59 use drugs in the borough and three wards accounted for 28.1 percent of all drugs-related offences in Waltham Forest, and were in the top 21 percent of all wards in London, according to the Metropolitan Police.
Methadone is the most common drug prescribed by doctors for heroin users. Faye said they are trying to change the culture with motivational sessions, complementary therapies and creative activities.
As an experienced frontline drugs worker, Faye is keen to pass on her knowledge to people who might not access the service directly. She trains people working on the frontline, such as volunteers at the Forest Churches Emergency Night Shelters.
I did not get to wear the ‘drug goggles’ but I heard these are a useful tool for showing students what it would be like to be impaired when trying to use a phone, for example.
Once clients are stable they progress to the Recovery and Activities Hub in Chingford Mount Road, which runs a number of groups and courses. Some clients become peer mentors, helping to run two recovery cafes, which meet once a week in Leyton and Walthamstow and are open to the public.
Lifeline Waltham Forest is currently looking for volunteers.
For more information about Lifeline Waltham Forest: