Sutton Council: Setting up a dedicated recovery hub

A stand-alone Recovery Hub has been established as part of Sutton’s substance misuse service. It is situated away from the main treatment clinic giving clients a sense of progress and achievement when they get there, while providing them with the on-going support they need to stay alcohol-free.


The challenge

Sutton is an outer London borough in the south of the city. It is home to just over 200,000 people.

Traditionally the substance misuse service relied on voluntary sector support to provide recovery support, leaving it to concentrate on providing expert treatment for alcohol problems.

Clients would be forwarded on to services such as housing and benefits support or the local volunteering centre.

When a new contract was awarded to Cranstoun, it was decided that a more comprehensive approach was needed for recovery.

The solution

The dedicated Recovery Hub was set up three years ago as part of a new integrated service known as Inspire to provide comprehensive support for clients who have achieved abstinence.

It is separate to the treatment service and offers a wide range of support for people over the age of 18.

There are peer support groups, arts and music groups, and employment and education advice. Clients can also volunteer to work at the hub or can be put in touch with the volunteer centre nearby which can organise other opportunities. This has become so popular that a representative from the centre is now introducing their services to clients at some of the groups held at the hub.

Commissioning Manager Leanne Bobb said: “We have brought together different elements of support to help aid recovery in a coordinated way.

“We believe it is very important to have a separate space to the treatment side of things as it gives clients a sense of progress and that they are on a journey. That helps engage and motivate them whilst also celebrating their success.

“The same staff work across the treatment and recovery service – so the clients will recognise staff and have that familiarity.”

The impact

At any one point there will be around 500 clients on the service’s books. Around half have alcohol-related problems – sometimes alongside a drug addiction.

In terms of successfully treating them, Sutton currently has one of the best performing services in the country – and this is in no small part down to the Recovery Hub.

In terms of alcohol misuse, 55 per cent of clients complete treatment and do not return within six months, that puts the borough top of the local comparators group and third overall in London, according to May 2019 data.

Meanwhile, for alcohol misuse combined with non-opiate drug abuse, performance is at 45 per cent, putting Sutton third in the local comparators group and fourth in London.

Helping to support and transform the lives of people affected by alcohol 23 One of those who has been helped is MarieLouise. She was referred by her GP as she was drinking in excess of 20 units a day.

She ended up being admitted to an inpatient detox unit and then attended group sessions to maintain her abstinence before being referred on to the Recovery Hub.

Marie-Louise attended three groups a week at the hub and fully engaged with the wider programme, ending up becoming a peer mentor and service user rep herself. In doing so, she helped to create and introduce a comprehensive welcome pack for the hub and spoke at an event held for local councillors and commissioners.

The confidence and motivation she gained from this inspired her to look for work. She soon found a job at a local care home where she continues to work.

Lessons learned

Sutton has found that the location of the hub is extremely important. The vision was always to locate it in a different building to the treatment clinic, which is at one end of the high street.

The building that was found for the hub initially was a little way out of the town centre, but it was clear that was not working.

Inspire Borough Manager Darren Nicholas said there was a certain degree of “ambivalence” about moving on to the hub when it was out of the town, but that changed when a high street venue was found.

“Now it is a 10-minute walk away, volunteers, service user reps and sometimes staff themselves are able to walk clients down to from the main treatment site.

“This has significantly reduced the anxiety and apprehension of clients and has enabled us to better motivate and encourage them to attend.”

Ms Bobb agrees. “It only moved a year ago, but it is already having an impact. It’s a really nice welcoming space with frosted glass on the windows and good communal spaces. It’s completely normalised among the shops on the high street.

“We could have put it in the same building as the treatment clinic, but just thought that would not be in the best interests of those who have moved on to recovery.”

How is the approach being sustained?

The hub is constantly looking to innovate. As well as being open to those who go through treatment, the hub is now available for people who have had substance misuse problems and stopped drinking or drug-taking through other methods.

The borough has also piloted the Breaking Free app. The digital service provides users with information and advice about tackling drinking problems.

There is also a function that allows the user to map their local neighbourhood and flag up potentially risky places that could cause them to lapse, such as a favourite pub or shop for buying drinks. The app then alerts them when they are in the vicinity and encourages them to use coping methods.

Ms Bobb said: “The service is in a really strong position now. The hub is providing something that was not really there before and that is benefiting our clients. We want to keep building from here. The Breaking Free app is a good example of that. It just provides that little extra support to maintain recovery.”

Contact details

Leanne Bobb Commissioning Manager Commissioning Unit, Sutton Council leanne.bobb@sutton.gov.uk