Survey of people who use our services: the results

Helen Deeson

We recently asked people that use our services a series of questions to get their views so that we can make better plans for the future. 

The survey ran over two weeks in May and we received over 2000 responses from across the country. Here are some of the headline results: 

Liane Taylor, Director of Integration, Housing and Strategy, Employment & Social Enterprise, said: “Understanding the experience of people that use our services and how we can make improvements is really important to us. With so much change happening in the world around us, this has never been more critical. 

“We are extremely pleased with the fantastic response that we have received and the positive feedback that people gave us. These results will feed into our new strategy about working together with people that use our services and they are involved in future planning” 

With the service delivery changes that had to take place during the pandemic we also wanted to know more about how people would like to use our services in future and what digital barriers they were facing. People reported that they really valued the online support that was provided during the pandemic but also really value face to face support. Barriers that were most commonly reported were not having access to a suitable device and lack of data.  

We will be using these results to inform our future practice and will share more details of changes that we will be making soon.  

The Misuse of Drugs Act: What will happen if we wait another 50 years?

Helen Deeson

Paul Townsley, our CEO, reflects on how we will look back on our drug laws in another 50 years.


I was two years old when the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) became law. It has overshadowed my whole working life. Working in treatment services, it can be easy to disconnect from the law and its impact on the people who use our services – and indeed the way we have to work as a result. We react to the effects of the law, and it’s intended and unintended consequences but without pause to consider the bigger ramifications or constraints that treatment is under.

Many of the people who use our services use a mixture of legal prescribed and non-prescribed drugs and illicit drugs which are made by the pharmaceutical industry, by organised crime or by the alcohol industry with tax revenue going to HMRC. This complex interplay between a broad range of psychoactive substances is not reflected in the act in a meaningful, rational and logical way. The criminalisation and stigma towards people who use a range of drugs creates a hypocritical approach from the get-go.

Throwing out the act in its entirety isn’t practical though. At this point, it seems to me that there isn’t the political will or the public appetite for that to be our initial goal. From my perspective, the next best thing would be for the MDA to be updated to be fair, evidence based and reflect the needs of the UK in 2021 not 1971. Throwing out the act without a developed alternative position may create unintended consequences. But it is important to agree in law and practice that the criminalisation of people using ‘illegal’ drugs is a flawed model that ultimately punishes rather than protects and helps people.

One way to ponder the validity of the MDA is to wonder, what would things be like in 2071? We would be reflecting on 100 years of the act and the ‘war on drugs’. What might that world look like and what would be better?

To state the blindingly obvious, to be politically acceptable we must create the pressure, conditions, and pathway to change and move from binary discussions of ‘for and against’ to what’s in the best interests of everyone in society in the long term. We need to be pragmatic about what can be achieved, but also recognise that things are changing and we need to push that door open more widely. The negative impacts of the increasing harms caused by alcohol, the increase in drug related deaths and waste of resources sentencing people and their families to a life within the criminal justice system all demand urgent change.

We have a window of opportunity to take some radical steps forwards; with a new government committed to invest and the impending release of the 2nd part of the Dame Carol Black Review. We need to take a public health approach to treatment and rehabilitate people caught up in the criminal justice system. Instead of referring people on in criminal justice settings we need to embed public health interventions in these settings. For people caught up in using, dealing and committing crime linked to substance use we need to make sure they are rehabilitated and get treatment first and foremost – not punishment.

We need to improve and protect the skills of staff working in both a specialist and non-specialist setting so that people get the help they need when they are either motivated to change or need basic health and social care interventions. Senior figures in both Police and Probation services are stepping up, and saying let’s do something different as they can see that the MDA does nothing, save from reinforce the revolving door of custody-release-custody. As a treatment provider we need to make sure our voices are as loud as others and improve treatment outcomes as we apply the evidence base of what works.

New investment needs to rebuild what has been lost over the recent years of cuts and look to the future to make sure we work with as many people as we can with the resources available.

We have a once in a generation opportunity to go with the evidence base rather than what’s politically tolerable in the short term. Early intervention potentially breaks the cycle of trauma and deprivation altogether.

My hope is that in 2071 people can look back at a well-intended but flawed approach to drug and alcohol use and the moment came when we as a country bravely changed course and moved towards decriminalisation and a public health approach.

You can also read Pauls article in the latest Drink and Drug News.

Latest ONS figures show alcohol related deaths remain high

Helen Deeson

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) today released statistics showing the number of alcohol specific deaths in the UK in 2019. The headline information is:

  • In 2019, there were 7,565 deaths registered in the UK that related to alcohol-specific causes, the second highest since the data time series began in 2001.
  • Alcohol-specific death rates were highest among those aged 55 to 59 years and 60 to 64 years for both men and women in 2019.
  • Alcoholic liver disease was the cause of 77.2% of deaths.
  • Male alcohol specific deaths have risen by 22% in England since 2001 while female alcohol specific deaths have risen by 25% in the same time period.
  • For the sixth consecutive year, the North East had the highest alcohol specific death rate of any English region.

Paul Townsley, Chief Executive at Humankind, said:

“Sadly, alcohol deaths remain very high, having a devastating impact on families, friends, society and the NHS.

“These latest figures don’t reflect the increase in alcohol use that we will have seen during lockdown due to loneliness and isolation. Our online alcohol coaching service, DrinkCoach has seen a 30% increase in use last year and we are expecting the trend to continue this year.

“Recent announcements about increased investment must go towards treatment for those most in need of it. Areas with higher levels of health inequality need a higher per head spend for those needing treatment in order to ‘level up’ access to good quality services nationally. In addition, we hope that there will be further increased investment in treatment services to respond to this significant increase in death rates.

“The fact that alcohol and drug related death figures are highest in the North East, one of the most deprived areas in England, is not surprising. The use of alcohol is often related to people’s circumstances and interlinked with access to secure housing, employment and support for mental health.

“Whist these figures present a bleak picture, it is important to remember that there are services available which can help people move towards recovery – if you need support for alcohol or drugs, please do reach out. We’ll be there to help.”

Humankind warmly welcomes additional funding for drug and alcohol treatment

Helen Deeson

We welcome the Government announcement on investment of an additional £80million into drug and alcohol treatment in the coming year.

This much needed money will provide support to people that have often suffered significant trauma in their lives and will help countless people make positive changes and move towards recovery.

Paul Townsley, CEO of Humankind said,

“This funding comes at a critical time for everyone who needs our services and we would like to thank Dame Carol Black for the influence, that I am in no doubt her review had on the Government’s decision.

“With nearly 4,500 preventable drug related deaths last year I am confident that the sector will use this money wisely to reduce these unnecessary deaths and will go some way in levelling up our communities and reduce health inequalities.

The pandemic has had a huge impact on some of the most vulnerable in society and this will help us to support those who need it in the coming months.”

New pods provide extra accommodation at Humankind homeless service

Helen Deeson

The pods, at No Second Night Out in Bradford, are providing emergency housing for those with nowhere else to sleep in the run up to Christmas

The service also increased its occupancy inside their Discovery House building, allowing the service to house more clients who are street homeless or at risk of rough sleeping.

Area Manager for Humankind, Clare Singlewood said: “Like many other providers we found ourselves unable to offer our usual, cold weather provision this winter due to the ongoing pandemic so we are really excited to have the opportunity to house and manage these emergency pods.”

Thomas Mann, Project Manager for Humankind Bradford, added: “I am delighted we can offer emergency pods during the winter months. The service continues to develop its support package and provide a solution-focused response to our client’s needs. We are always look for innovative and creative ways to support the Cold Weather Provision and the ‘Everyone In’ initiative across Bradford.”

The emergency pods, built by Amazing Grace spaces, contain a bed, chemical toilet, smoke alarm, phone charger, light, key-coded door and are powered by solar panels. Humankind has worked with Hope Housing, Inn Churches and the Homeless Outreach Programme in Bradford to provide the pods.

Juli Thompson, Chief Executive for Inn Churches, stated: “We are under no illusion that this is only a short-term solution to homelessness. But to someone who finds themselves suddenly on the streets it could help avert their crisis. This year at Inn Churches, due to Covid-19, we have been advised not to operate our winter shelters. After 11 winters of running the shelters, we felt that purchasing the pods allowed us to still support people who found themselves at the mercy of the winter weather.”

No Second Night Out has also just received a contract extension, from Bradford Council, so it can continue to deliver its service until October 2021.

Christmas Appeal

Helen Deeson

It has been a difficult year for us all and Christmas is likely to be different for everyone this year.  Sadly the festive season is one of the most challenging times for many of the people we support as they experience poverty, homelessness, loneliness, isolation and risk.  At Humankind we will be working throughout Christmas, as we do every day of the year, to ensure that we support people in crisis, provide emergency shelter, food, safety and essential advice. 

You can help support our vital work by donating to our Christmas appeal. Please visit Your donation will go directly towards helping those in need or at risk of harm this Christmas. 

You can also donate by text: Please text the amount you wish to donate (up to £20) e.g. To donate £10 Text HKXMAS 10 to 70085. Texts cost donation amount plus one standard rate message and you’ll be opting in to hear more about our work and fundraising via telephone and SMS.  

If you’d like to donate £10 but do not wish to receive marketing communications, text HKXMASNOINFO 10 to 70085. 

A donation to our Christmas appeal will go directly to help those most in need or at risk from harm. 

  • £10 will allow us to provide a pack of essential items, including personal hygiene and sanitary products,  to a street sleeper 
  • £20 could contribute towards our national service user fund, providing emergency funding for people in extreme hardship 
  • £50 will support us to transform Christmas for a family in poverty providing basic food and shelter 


Welcome to our new website

Helen Deeson

We are excited to launch our new, easier to use, website.

We wanted to make the new website easier to use for everyone, but most of all for the people who use our services.

Karen Tyrell, Executive Director of Strategy, Culture & External Affairs, said: “The most important thing for us is to be able to offer a quick and easy way for people to get to the information they need. We wanted to speak directly to people who are looking for support.”

The charity, with web developers Roundtable Studio, ran online meetings with people who use different Humankind services, to hear their views on what they thought worked best.

Karen said: “I’d like to thank all the people who use our services who gave up their time to help us develop this website.

“We got strong feedback on how people would want to use the new website, what kind of imagery was most inclusive, what information they needed and the language we needed to use.

“We’re really proud of what we have achieved by working together.”

The site will further develop over the coming weeks and months to make it a really useful tool for people looking for support. ​​​​​​​

Latest ONS figures show drug related deaths have risen to record levels

Helen Deeson

The latest drug related deaths figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for England and Wales have reported an increase in drug related deaths in 2019.

Some key figures from the data show:

  • there were 4,393 deaths related to drug poisoning registered in 2019. This is an increase on the 4,359 deaths registered in 2018 and the highest number of deaths since recording began in 1993.
  • rates are five and a half times higher for people living in deprived areas
  • the North East has a significantly higher rate of deaths relating to drug misuse than all other English regions
  • deaths involving cocaine increased for the eighth successive year – including a 26.5% increase for female deaths on the previous year

Karen Tyrell, Executive Director at Humankind, said: “Sadly, year on year we are seeing an increase in drug related deaths and every single one has a huge impact on families and friends. Our thoughts go out to the thousands of people that have lost someone in these tragic circumstances.

“There is still a huge amount of stigma for people that use drugs but we must remember that behind each of these numbers are individuals who have often been through traumatic events and are in desperate need of support to help them deal with that.

“Every death is preventable and we believe there must be a step change to better support vulnerable people.  The fact that drug related death figures are highest in the North East, one of the most deprived areas in England, is not surprising. The use of drugs is often related to people’s circumstances and interlinked with housing, employment and mental health.

“Drug and alcohol treatment services are operating under immense pressure as funding continues to reduce but the Dame Carol Black review and lock down provide us with an opportunity for change.

“If you need drug and alcohol services, please do reach out. We’ll be there to help.”

Our Impact

Helen Deeson

The 2019/20 Humankind Impact Report, which is released today, has highlighted how Humankind services are creating fairer chances for more people than ever with over 76,000 people supported across the county last year. Read the full report here.

Humankind Chief Executive, Paul Townsley, said: “I am extremely proud of everything that has been achieved this year and want to thank our Trustees, staff and volunteers for their support and dedication to people who use our services. We were delighted to achieve the Investors in People Gold award which is a credit to our workforce.

“We have grown considerably in the last year and delighted to welcome services in London and EDP in the South West to Humankind. Partnerships are incredibly important and we will continue to work collaboratively with other regional partners so that our services can offer tailored approaches to the different places we work in.”

The charity, which has 1,200 staff and around 100 volunteers nationally, works alongside its many partner organisations to provide integrated services. Our key success this year include;

  • Achieving the Investors in People Gold Award
  • Our volunteers have kindly given 20,963 hours of their own time to support others and 45 of our volunteer leavers left due to gaining employment.
  • We supported 1701 individuals within our work and skills services.
  • Every day 2 people are housed by our housing services – that’s 14 per week or 61 per month.
  • Our independent living services supported 3228 people.

It has embedded its stated values of being honest, committed and inventive. It also has a programme of working together with people who use its services to continually improve its impact.

New service provides human support for people who need urgent mental health care

Helen Deeson

Our Humankind charity is to provide specialist mentoring support to people on Teesside who need urgent mental health care.

A new Teesside Peer Support Service will work closely with Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust Teesside Crisis Resolution, inpatient and Community Intensive Home Treatment Teams.

The new service will include opportunities for six new Peer Support Worker apprentices who have real, lived experience of crisis and mental health services.

Christine Ormerod, the Humankind charity’s Assistant Director North East, said: “Peer Mentoring is a form of support between people who have had experiences of similar issues.”

She explained people receiving the support found it helpful to talk to someone who had been in their position and could relate in some way to how they feel and what they are going through.

“This new team of peers will work with patients while they are in TEWV care but also, after they’ve been discharged and are back in the community. The idea would be to help patients rebuild their lives.

Christine said: “We fully believe in the value of mentoring, peer support. It means people in crisis will be able to make a human connection with people who’ve had similar experiences and have recovered. There’s lots of evidence to show this is really therapeutic – it gives people in crisis hope for the future.”

The peer mentors will work alongside doctors, nurses, psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers, support workers. Their mentoring will be coordinated and supported by a Humankind project manager and a Peer Mentor and Volunteer Lead Practitioner.

Christine said: “We see this model of peer mentor care also having real benefit for the peer mentors themselves, supporting people to progress, providing real opportunities in a supportive environment within a caring organisation, apprentices will also have a college study day each week for their qualification. We value lived experience highly and this service complements Humankind’s existing peer support provision.”

The new service comes after the charity successfully tendered for two contracts to deliver the support.

Close Bitnami banner