£1m ‘Recovery Central’ to make Birmingham the recovery capital of the UK

A new £1m centre has opened in Birmingham with the promise of helping more than 300 people beat their addiction with drink and drugs every year.

Recovery Central, the brainchild of Changes UK, will make the city one of the most progressive locations in the country for ‘recovery’ and houses Friends Kitchen café, a dry bar, 120-seat conference venue and business incubation space for service users looking to move into self-employment.

The 15,000 sq ft venue, which has been funded by Public Health England, also features a state-of-the-art recording studio and additional space to grow its services by almost a third.

It is an ambitious expansion plan for the organisation, but one that has received widespread backing from the community, local authorities and a number of well-known celebrities, including Jimmy Somerville and Duran Duran’s John Taylor.

The official opening on 13 May included a surprise visit from comedian Russell Brand, who addressed a packed audience of charity workers, health professionals and people in recovery. He said the real value of Changes UK was that its staff genuinely understood how service users felt:

“People who have been institutionalised a lot, when they come into a situation where they are offered help, a lot of the time people think ‘You don’t know what I feel, you’ve not been through what I’ve been through’,” he said.

“But the people here do know and they have been through it. The integrity of that is vital. Absolutely vital.”

So impressed by the pioneering approach to recovery developed by Changes, Russell Brand has since been announced as patron of the organisation and will be playing an active role in setting up UK Recovery Radio, which will broadcast from the new centre in Digbeth.


More than 100 people were given a guided tour of Recovery Central as part of the launch event, which also included speeches from Adrian Phillips (Director of Public Health at Birmingham City Council), Dr Ed Day (Senior Lecturer at The National Addiction Centre) and Rosanna O’Connor of Public Health England.

They also heard from Alex Davey and Colette Carter, who accessed Changes UK to turn their lives around after many years addicted to drink and drugs.

Steve Dixon, who founded the charity after 15 years of addiction, explained “This is an important milestone in the Changes UK journey and one that potentially offers the ‘recovery’ blueprint for other cities to follow.”

“Our service works because it is peer led (by people who have been in similar situations and come through them) and focuses not only on tackling the problems, but also giving individuals support and opportunities once they are in recovery.”

He continued: “This has resulted in the vast majority of our clients (78%) staying clean and building new lives, a staggering success rate when you consider the national average is just 8%. It’s all about connection, empowerment and raising aspirations by giving them access to training, volunteering and employment. Service users at the beginning of their recovery journey are supported 24-hours a day by qualified staff and specially trained volunteer peer mentors. They also have access to the Recovery Academy, which, over an eight-week full time programme, begins to build the knowledge and skills they need in order to maintain recovery, build a personal recovery support network (including mutual aid groups) and learn to live life to the full”

“Recovery Central gives us an amazing venue that we can use to help more people in our city into recovery from addiction and gain the skills to live a life with meaning and purpose, so that they also can be an asset to our community rather than just a burden.

He continued: “The revenue generated through our social enterprises and conference space will allow us to become completely self-funding, providing the platform we need to continue to plug the needs of our community without the requirement to look for government funding or grants.

“This new building alone has created seven new jobs and, over the next twelve months, will support another 150 people in their recovery journey, taking the number of service users to 300.

Steve, who re-mortgaged his family home to start Changes UK in 2007, continued: “For each addict that stays clean it saves £50,000 every 12 months, so if we are helping 300 people at any one time we are potentially saving the city £15m.”

He went on to add: “Recent research undertaken also shows that for every £1 invested into our organisation we generate a positive social impact of £14.58. We fully expect this figure to increase even further with the addition of Recovery Central and the people who will be driving it…the clients that are on their recovery journey.

“We want to take the stigma away from employing or working with people who have had alcohol and drug dependency issues and show – with the right support – individuals can achieve tremendous things and offer great services.”

“We’ve got some fantastic stories of people entering employment, getting their families back, volunteering to support the homeless and even starting their own printing business and nail salon.”

Employing 31 people, Changes UK provides a detox service, residential and community-based rehabilitation (Recovery Academy), supported and move on recovery housing, Recovery Inside in HMP Birmingham, Recovery Telephone Support and opportunities to gain accredited qualifications, volunteering, work experience and employment.

Recovery Central also provides space and business support to a number of other social enterprises run by people in recovery such as Transfurniture, Shoots of Recovery, Quest and Beam.

Colette’s story…

“I willingly just stuck my arm out and she injected me with heroin.”

That moment was the start of more than nearly 30 years of addiction for Colette Carter, an addiction that nearly cost her everything.

The 53 year-old admits she ‘used’ every day and would do extreme things in order to get enough money to feed her habit.

“I kept relapsing and was struggling to see a solution when I heard about Changes, just a few weeks before my 50th birthday,” explained Colette.

“You have to pass a test to make sure you are not using, but I failed and it took three weeks until I could return for another one.”

She went on to add: “During that time I slept in my car and then sofa surfed at friends across Birmingham – thankfully this time I passed and was accepted into the Recovery Academy.”

That was just over three years ago and this month Colette will celebrate 36 months ‘clean’ in August.

She has many hours of volunteering experience behind her, lives in her own flat in the City and has secured employment as a peer mentor for Shelter, working to support homeless people with complex needs.

More information

Visit: Changes UK – www.changesuk.org

Tel: 0121 796 1000

Twitter: @Changes_UK

Facebook: ChangesUK2

Recovery Central – 9 Allcock Street, Digbeth, Birmingham B9 7DY

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