Arthur was a service user with Thames Reach for 3-4 years prior to his employment and also with a number of other agencies prior to that. He was brought up on a fairground in North Wales. It was a
very insular life, without the need to connect much with outside society. There was lots of alcohol and drugs about: he was taking by the time he was 14 and using regularly by 16. By his early 20s he was, as he describes it, a “functioning addict”. Later, he married, had kids and got a good job in the City. He worked in the City until into his 40s – from the outside it looked like a great life but he was still using drugs on a daily basis. Things “went pear shaped” in 1996 and as a result he went into treatment. He stayed clean for a few years but then relapsed. He started a business with his brother but kept relapsing. His longest abstinence was four years. In 2002 he went clean “for the final time”. He has received residential treatment “about half a dozen times” and received various services from Thames Reach, alongside other agencies.
Arthur came to his job with Thames Reach because of his daughter. When she was about 20 she had been in and out of jobs, not sure of what she wanted to do. He was receiving help from Thames Reach at the time and encouraged her to look at them for employment – which she did and got a job she enjoyed.
About 3 years later, on his 50th birthday, Arthur was complaining to his daughter that he needed to do something with his life, and she suggested that he also consider employment with Thames Reach. He thought this was a good idea, applied for a traineeship, was successful in a competitive interview and started work in August 2008. He spent 6 months in a placement in a hostel, 4 months in a tenancy sustainment team, and then, as he had obtained all the core competencies, applied for and got a job with street outreach, starting in June 2009. Arthur feels that his job with Thames Reach gives him more than just a living: it’s something he believes in.
Does he let service users know about his background? He’s easy about this – if it’s relevant and helpful then he mentions it, if not, he doesn’t. He did feel it can open up new possibilities for dialogue – especially in relation to the clients who say: “you don’t know what it’s like”. “When you tell them you do, they look at you and they know immediately”. He feels it can move engagement to a new level – “you’re talking to someone who understands you”. What about relationships with other staff? Most feel OK but a very few were initially uncomfortable and as a result felt that Arthur should not be divulging his service use background. He was actually reprimanded once by a manager for revealing his service use, after a co-worker complained to the manager about it.