Some of the Forward Leeds staff outside their hub in Armley

The city’s drug and alcohol support service has revealed major plans for the year ahead thanks to recent funding boosts which bosses say will be used for “maximum positive impact on the wellbeing of people in Leeds”.

Forward Leeds has been celebrating after receiving funding through a series of Government grants as well as having its contract renewed for at least another five years by Leeds City Council.

Earlier this month, the Government announced local authorities across England will receive an extra £421m through to 2025 to improve drug and alcohol addiction treatment and recovery. That followed news in May last year, that Leeds City Council was to receive a grant worth £2.8m from the Government to invest in the service over the next three years.

Now Forward Leeds has revealed how it plans to invest the funding throughout its service during the first year.

“We have been working closely with Leeds City Council’s commissioning and public health teams to agree when and how this money should be spent so that it has the maximum positive impact on the wellbeing of people in Leeds.”

They said the immediate aim of the first year is to offer “increased support where it is needed most to benefit the people we work with”.

The Forward Leeds management team

Plans include:

  • Creating more roles including three further team managers as well as psychologists, prescribers and recovery co-ordinators, which it hopes to double the amount of over the next three years.
  • Helping with caseloads of these co-ordinators, allowing staff to offer “quality, in-depth treatment and support”.
  • Offering enhanced needle and syringe programmes and outreach and engagement programmes, including for people with disabilities and new parents as well as more targeted street outreach for vulnerable groups such as rough sleepers, sex workers and those not currently in treatment.
  • Increasing resources within the Hospital In-Reach Team (HIRT), to help patients admitted for alcohol-related needs, as well as investment in the service’s Enhanced Care Team, which supports service users who face multiple disadvantages. 

The plans allow Forward Leeds to further strengthen the range of mental health support it already offers clients through its specialist team made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, nurse specialists, therapists, non-medical prescribers and associate practitioners.

This team’s role is to provide specialist assessment and help for people with alcohol and/or drug problems who have additional needs.

Its staff are based across the three main Forward Leeds hubs – in Armley, Kirkgate in the city centre and Seacroft as well as in the hospitals in Leeds – where they offer a variety of interventions such as mental health diagnosis, psychological therapies, parenting assessments and skills, talking therapies, group therapies and specialist prescribing as well as joint working with community mental health teams.

Forward Leeds’s funding boosts and contract renewal are the latest in a run of good news for the service after it was chosen as Leeds City Council’s ‘partner of the year’ at their 2022 Awards For Excellence in December.

The service was also last year rated as ‘outstanding’ overall in its latest inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which praised it as “highly innovative”, where “staff always go the extra mile to support clients”.

In welcoming the service’s contact renewal, Coun Salma Arif, Leeds City Council’s executive member, said: “The service plays a vital role in addressing the challenges posed by drug and alcohol use to individuals and communities in Leeds, ensuring that anyone in the city struggling with drug and alcohol issues is able to get support.

“For some years now, Forward Leeds has consistently been one of the highest performing drug and alcohol treatment services in the country, and it is one of only a few services in the country that is rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).”

Helen Cook, operations director of Forward Leeds, said receiving the contract renewal was “fantastic” and that it “reflects the quality and the hard work of staff across our partnership and the commitment they show in working with people who come to us for support”.

She added: “We have had to prove that we are able to continue to offer the high-quality service we have been doing and that we can develop and evolve our service to meet the ever-changing needs of the city.”

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