With a heavy heart I read Colin Rochester’s article in the Third Sector “How the sector was invented”. As the editorial in the Third Sector on the 18th February argues “a sense of austerity has left charities feeling they have been led up the garden path by successive governments. This has been compounded by disillusionment about the availability and conditions of public sector contracts.” Charities increasingly fall into statutory voluntary sector which is significantly funded by government or delivers public services or both, and the voluntary sector which survives mainly on donation and follows an independent agenda.
For 50 years Blenheim, has been a pro-active social change organisation rooted in the day-to-day challenges facing those with alcohol and/or drugs problems, their families and local communities.
We have had in recent years professionalised and bureaucratised to compete in the new world of competitive tendering whilst seeking to retain our roots as we have expanded. In 2013 when reviewing our strategy I realised that we had gone too far down the route of provider organisation.
Whilst we continue to focus on providing services that strive to be innovative, excellent and cost-effective, Blenheim is determined to have a voice and to keep our charitable endeavour and campaigning voice at the heart of what we do. We believe that this sadly sets us apart from many of the other voluntary sector organisations working in the drug and alcohol sector.
Care, compassion and tolerance for those in need sums up the ethos of Blenheim. At its heart is a raging passion to provide non-judgemental assistance to those who find themselves in difficulty with drugs and alcohol. The organisation has a committed and passionate approach to finding ways of helping those in often desperate and heart breaking need.
Fundamental to Blenheim is the belief that everyone can change they just need to be given the opportunity and resources.
Blenheim has pioneered work with drug users and alcohol users and much of what now is mainstream and sometimes still controversial both across the UK and internationally comes directly from the innovative and ground breaking work of the dedicated people who have worked for Blenheim over the years.
Today we work over 9000 people a year making a positive impact that not only improves health of the individual but has a lasting positive impact on the wellbeing of their family and friends, and the communities in which they live.
People who use our services are not just people with drug and alcohol problems, they are partners, fathers, sisters, grandmothers, children, brothers, friends, work colleagues and carers. We help people come to terms with often deeply troubled lives to grow and leave the constraints of dependency behind to journey into a brighter future.
Every journey starts with the first step and our role is to help people map their personal journey to a dependency free life. It’s not enough to treat dependency in isolation, people often need to address a wide range of issues in their lives, from relationships to employment, from housing to nutrition.
As we enter our 50th year of social action we are determined to be a loud advocate of the needs of those with the most complex needs in society. Campaigning and influencing key decision makers is a key part of Blenheim’s work.
In 2014 we will focus on the appalling failure to provide Hepatitis C treatment in line with NICE guidelines and issues of equality and stigma experienced by people with drug and alcohol problems.
For 50 years we have been the light in the darkness for so many people young and old, rich and poor. In the coming years we intend to continue our work with dedication and an undying commitment to the people we help to rebuild their lives.
- We choose to be a charity, a campaigning organisation not just a service provider
- We choose to strive to be better than we were yesterday
- We choose to be Blenheim and we stand proud
- We choose to develop into an organisation deeply rooted in the communities in which it works
Challenges remain in developing a structure which puts the communities in which we work at the heart of the organisations charitable endeavours and ensures we listen to the voices of people who come to us for support.
Blenheim will continue to tender and be a great service provider, but more importantly we will be a charity and a fierce advocate for people with drug and alcohol problems now and in the years to come.
Blenheim have published a book; London Calling: Voices from 50 years of Social Action.