Rob and TACT

Rob grew up with hard working parents but as a teenager he got involved with drugs and as he grew older, he got in trouble with the law. His family life was troubled and chaotic, and he also struggled with mental illness.

I was 14 when I got involved with drugs, I was selling heroin and using it before school just to feel normal. By 21 I’d been in 4 young offenders places and as an adult it was prison. I had children and they were put on a care order. So, I had to go to a contact centre with social workers to see my kids. I’ve been through mental health services too…been sectioned…

At 36 he found himself in prison once again. On release he decided to make a change.

I got out of there and sat in front of the mirror and thought ‘I don’t like you and I don’t like the way you’re looked at by other people’ and I just stopped. I stopped using. I managed to get a studio flat. I started looking at courses and went on health champion courses.

He thought about the future and realised it would be hard to get a job. He began to wonder whether he could create something that might help him and others.

I’ve got a massive criminal record, I’m an ex-drug user. I thought ‘what am I gonna do?’ It was like I was standing in an open field, not knowing what direction to go in. It was about choosing a point on the landscape and walking towards it. Me and another lad…came up with an idea of a smart recovery group. For weeks no one turned up. I just sat there on my own, but I’m an addict so I just kept going! After about 12 weeks people started to dribble in

Rob linked to a service user group run by the local drug team and over time the group became independent. This developed into a small support and then a vision of a new organisation, one focused on people and recovery.

I got offered a free office at the local drug team and I set up there. It was quite weird…about 2 years before I was barred from the building. I think that was the platform that I needed. I moved and I started to give talks about what I was doing and what the vision was

Rob and TACT

Rob was told about a capital grant opportunity. He put in a bid, was successful and used the grant to purchase a building, which would become the base of his new organisation, a CIC called Telford After Care Team (TACT).

In 7 years, it’s gone from me and a Nike bag to owning the building and having four contracts with the NHS and Public Health.

The organisation has developed and grown over the years and they now offer a multitude of activities and opportunities.

We’ve got a print company, a landscape gardening company, a café, a training company, and a female housing project. We get up to 90 to 100 people a day through the doorway accessing courses and groups. Everything we’ve done has been through people’s voices

Everything they do links to recovery and is led by people with lived experience.

We give opportunities. Above our door is a sign with ‘recovery through discovery’ written on it and that’s what we do in a nutshell. We discover people’s talents are and we grow them

All organisational development is organic, creative and led by people and their experiences.

I speak to the Police and Crime Commissioner and get a pot of money. Then I go and see someone from the Council and get them to match fund that pot of money. We buy a van, equipment, uniforms or whatever. Projects like that don’t make any money but they cover themselves and they give people opportunities

What helped?

Rob was supported at the start by the local authority and primary care trust (PCT).

I had some good commissioners at the time who believed in it. I got the first lot of funding

Rob had a drugs worker who gave him clear advice and a lot of support.

I had an amazing drug worker who was very supportive. Now he works for me so he’s been a massive sort of mentor and a big part of my life… so I’m not letting him go too far!

He is clear his success and the success of TACT is down to teamwork and strong networking.

It’s about keeping the right people around you. It’s all about positivity. It’s going out and networking, networking, networking and selling your story. I’m a salesman, that’s what I do, I sell recovery to people and not just people who are in addiction or around mental health

Challenges

Funding and secure income has been an ongoing challenge for Rob from the start of the early groups to the emergence and development of TACT.

As you grow obviously, you’re gonna need more money to run it. It’s always a battle to keep open, funding right across the country is crippling people.

Some of the finances on offer have come with strings attached

We’ve done this stuff where money’s been offered but with the requirement that people from the Council manage it. We’ve said ‘no’ and caused upset. I’ve always stuck to the vision

Achievements and impact

A huge achievement for Rob is gaining custody of his 2 sons and becoming a good parent after a challenging history.

Getting custody of my kids and bringing them up. My eldest, he remembers me at my worst…They’ve been part of that recovery journey. My lad still comes to my recovery group and he’s 15. They’re the levelheadedest kids because they’ve seen it, and seen people who have come through that madness of addiction

Rob and TACT have won several national and local awards and he is regularly asked to share his story and successes at events.

Talking at conferences, being asked to go along and talk about my stories is always rewarding…where if I reach one person in that crowd who will go away and try in their area.

TACT has given Rob a real purpose in life and it has also given him an opportunity to work.

It’s given me a purpose in life I suppose and deciding to set it up as a CIC and take a wage. I’m employed by the company I set up.

Seeing the impact on other people has a huge impact on Rob and others at TACT.

I come to work and work with the people who were me and we support each other. My new drug is to sit in a recovery group and hear how well people are doing. What we’ve done is made recovery visible. We’ve put choice in the hands of the people who are getting clean, hundreds and hundreds of people have come through and done well. Massive massive impact.

The future

In the future Rob and TACT want to help more people in as many ways as possible.

If I get drug workers and probation officers ringing and saying ‘I wouldn’t work with him’ that means I’m digging my heels in with this lad and I’m going to mentor. It’s the ones that have been written off that are the ones that will do the best.

Rob aims to make TACT self-sustaining in the medium term.

The model is to be self-sustaining, that’s what our business plan says. We won’t need funding in 5 years. The small businesses we set up which give people the opportunity will then go towards running the organisation. So, any profits made will go back into the middle.