INTERVIEW: Alun Thomas, Chief Executive, Adferiad Recovery

On 1st April 2021 charities Adferiad Recovery, CAIS, Hafal and WCADA merged to become a new charity: Adferiad Recovery. Matt Pearce caught up with former Hafal Chief Executive Alun Thomas to find out more about the new charity – and his new role as Chief Executive of Adferiad Recovery…

 

You’ve been Chief Executive at Hafal for six years. What are you most proud of during that time?

I think what I’m most proud of is the quality of service we’ve provided and continue to provide. It all comes back to the clients. When I meet people at the projects and events and hear how Hafal has supported them in their recovery and how they have flourished, it makes me hugely proud to be a part of this organisation. Some of our clients have progressed in their recovery and gone on to work in mental health, sometimes for Hafal, so that they can support others. When you hear stories like that you’re on cloud nine.

It’s this quality of service that I want to continue to develop as Chief Executive of Adferiad Recovery. I think we’ve got a golden opportunity to share expertise and deliver even more comprehensive and responsive support in the new organisation.

On a broader scale, I’d say what I’m most proud of during my time as Chief Executive has been the development of our partnership working – we’ve forged some really valuable links with other organisations in recent years. DACW is a great example – a Welsh consortium providing a complete range of services for people with cooccurring disorders which brings together a range of organisations, including Hafal, which collaborate and support each other. By linking with these other organisations we’ve been able to share expertise and deliver much more value for our clients. It is this partnership working which has led to Adferiad Recovery.

This approach won’t change. Partnership working will be key to Adferiad Recovery’s development as we move forward. There needs to be far more partnership working in Wales and I want us to be at the heart of that.

Then, of course, there’s Crossroads Mid and West Wales which merged with Hafal a few years ago to become Hafal Crossroads and which delivers vital services to unpaid carers through mid and west Wales. Together we have become one of the most important organisations in Wales supporting carers – this is a key part of our mission.

Tell us more about why Hafal, Adferiad Recovery, CAIS and WCADA have decided to join forces?

My background is in nursing, and what I learned from working on the front line is that we need to treat the patient as a whole and not the ‘hole in the patient’. Hafal’s Members have always understood this point: they have told us that a person with complex needs deserves to be treated holistically. So really this merger is a response to them, and the clients in Adferiad Recovery, CAIS and WCADA who have a very similar view and experience.

We need to remember that at one time treatment for drug or alcohol addiction was considered to be completely separate from treatment for mental health disorders. Care was delivered at different facilities using very different approaches. As a result, many people with a mental illness never received treatment for their substance abuse, and vice versa. Often, someone with an addiction would be actively excluded from mental health care.

We know from experience that integrated and individualised care is key to providing effective support. At Hafal we have always championed a “Whole Person Approach” which takes into account all aspects of a person’s life, not just their mental illness. Providing services which are seamless and which address both mental health and addiction issues is a logical progression for us. Having expertise in both mental health and addiction ‘in house’ will make it far easier for us to provide a comprehensive and responsive package of support.

What benefits do you hope the merger will bring?

As mentioned, the biggest benefit is that clients will receive improved support from us. Adferiad Recovery will provide a package of support which can cater for a wider range of disorders and issues, and in a very integrated and personalised way. People with complex and co-occurring problems, in particular, will really benefit from the new organisation’s combined expertise.

One of the new charity’s aims will be to transform care for people with co-occurring diagnoses and to establish best practice in this area which can influence services beyond Adferiad Recovery.

At an organisational level, merging four successful organisations with sound track records and high-quality services and staff will make a really strong charity with one robust and well-balanced set of services. The four charities have a good match of over-lapping objectives and services that fit well together.

Of course, by becoming one large charity, we can save costs by sharing resources. We can increase income because we can apply for a greater range of grants. This will enable us to drive up the quality and variety of services we can offer to people, and provide more long-term security for the future. It’s important to point out that there is no plan for reductions in services or staff: it is intended that the merger creates more security for everyone.

One of my personal aims is to make us an employer of choice. I want staff and volunteers to share the goals of the organisation and be a part of its success. Specifically, I want our progressive organisational values of ambition, equality and diversity to apply to our staff and volunteers as well as our clients and Members – and for everyone to benefit from them. It’s about creating a positive culture and investing in everyone.

Hafal has been a very strong campaigning organisation over the years, especially with regard to mental health law. How will that role continue?

We will absolutely continue to campaign vigorously on behalf of our client group which will now be even broader. That will include campaigning in the coming year for a fair Mental Health Act and a progressive Welsh mental health strategy.

In my opinion Adferiad Recovery has the potential to have even more impact as a campaigning organisation. We’ll have greater capacity to campaign and our broader expertise will enable us to tackle more issues, and have an even more informed perspective. Our campaigning has always been driven by our Members and clients and informed by their experiences. With an even wider client group we will have even more expertise and experience to draw on. Our voice will only get louder!