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About seven months ago one of our long standing clients, OnePlusOne – a relationship research charity – got in touch asking for help to produce a strengthening relationships resource to support couples affected by drug and alcohol addiction.

The project was funded by the Department for Work and Pensions and was part of a wider schedule of strengthening relationships work.

We’ve recently completed the project and it has shot to the top of my list as one of my most proudest pieces of work.

What we did

Following lots of research, face to face meetings with three separate addiction charities and a partnership with Alcohol, Drugs and Families charity Adfam, we created Relationship Realities, a bespoke audio resource, which included six stories of real-life relationships that had been affected by drugs and alcohol.

The resource was offered to other couples and families living with addiction via ten family support workers from across the UK. Eighty MP3 players (and a small number of CDs) were given out in total, to share the stories of drugs and alcohol on relationships and provide practical advice. 

Everyone’s story was different, there was a couple whose two sons became addicted to heroin and sadly one of them died as a result; then there was the mum who talked about how her husband supported her through her daughter’s alcohol addiction and the young couple who talked about how addiction within their relationship affected them.

It was decided this should be a pilot project and should be run on a small scale initially and evaluated through gaining both the recipients’ and family support workers’ feedback and the family support workers feedback. To date we have had a few evaluation forms back and so far so good, but we will need to evaluate people’s feedback in detail to determine how useful this resource is.

You can listen to Relationship Realities here.

Challenges  

Over the course of the project we did hit and overcome a number of challenges, these included:

  • Finding six couples willing to take part: although this wasn’t a huge challenge it took us longer than expected to find people happy to be involved in such a sensitive project.
  • Finding a broadcast journalist: the brief was pretty straightforward but we needed someone who could start almost straight away, work to tight timescales, travel across the country, have experience of working on sensitive issues and work within our budget. In the end we couldn’t have found a better journalist than Sonia Rothwell.
  • Finding low cost, but high quality MP3 players: we tried and tested a number of different MP3 players, in the end having to buy some from China that took an age to arrive.
  • Dodgy headphones: we noticed some of the MP3 players weren’t working all of the time, after testing 110 units we discovered this was down to the headphones and quickly got down to researching and ordering 110 more pairs of headphones.
  • MP3 players in other languages/playing in the wrong order: even after solving the headphone issues we still had some problems with a small proportion of the MP3 players, some were in another language so couldn’t be navigated and others refused to start at the beginning of the playlist.
  • Getting the packaging right: the packaging was crucial, the people who would be receiving these resources could be vulnerable or going through chaos, we wanted receiving the resource to be special but also we wanted them to want to open it and not be embarrassed to take it home with them. Working with the amazing designer Adam Mitchinson, we ended up with a perfect design, which you can see below.

Successes 

  • Secured a partnership between Adfam and OnePlusOne
  • 6 interviews recorded with couples from across the country.
  • 30 minutes of audio content produced.
  • 80 MP3 players containing the audio content offered to couples across the country.
  • 30 CDs containing the audio content offered to couples across the country.
  • 10 family support workers engaged in the project.
  • 7 pieces of coverage including Guardian Social Care Network and coverage for an hour on BBC Radio 5 Live.
  • A successful launch event at the Institute of Alcohol Studies, attended by more than 30 people from DWP, the Department for Health, addiction charities and the couples themselves.