I wouldn’t have watched a programme like this on Channel 4 or 5. I’m biased that way. Hate those that pedal welfare porn and mock sympathy with smattering of right-wing agenda. Trumpet at a them and us world and look at the money we’re wasting on scum. I’m not really sure this is much better. I know the script. Phoenix Futures Specialist Family Services in Sheffield offer addicts the last chance to keep their kids.
Drugs of choice: opiates, mainly heron and over-the-counter derivatives such as co-codamol. Amphetamines. Crack Cocaine. Alcohol. Cigarettes don’t count as an addiction.
Issues to be dealt with and confronted: physical and sexual abuse. That old favourite low self-esteem and low self-worth.
First up Tracey who has eight children, seven of whom have been taken into care. She provides the kind of parenting that politicians such as David Cameron and half man half slime George Osborne loved to put centre stage at Tory Party conference with the headline: Broken Britain. And she really is broken. She’s a mess. Her eight-year-old daughter acted as surrogate mother to the kids younger than her. That’s the real tragedy. She’s completed the first stage, been successfully weaned of co-codamol. It costs around £1000 a week, funding comes largely from local authorities, to keep her at Phoenix and her child out of care and progression to the next default stage of being put up for adoption. Three-quarters of those that attend Phoenix successfully complete the course and leave with their child or children.
Statistics like that always make me sigh. Of course taking addicts away from the environment in which they have ready access to drugs and into a leafy borough with a structured routine and…well, need I go on? If we are going to tell stories I prefer the one about rats weaned on cocaine took drugs obsessively, ignoring food placed in their cage, until watered-down cocaine, killed them. Rats are social animals. Placed in a different environment rats ignored the watered-down cocaine and drunk ordinary tap water and recovered. Those soldiers in Vietnam that came home no longer saw the need to get rat faced and take heroin. Most of them didn’t end up as popular myths or Tom Cruise. The best myth of all is it’s some kind of weakness, like a faulty ball-bearing, and they’re just happy to roll about in their own muck.
Another popular statistic those in the know have often quoted at me is a third of addicts remain addicts, a third float between addiction and non-addiction and a third make it to the promised land of sobriety and non-addiction. You know what I think of that? Go and waffle yourself.
So let’s put on our serious and concerned social worker faces and go down the bookies and put our cash on who will and who will not make it. After all this is entertainment. Tracey won’t make it. She’s had seven strikes and she’s out.
Sian, from London, two kids under two. Supportive family. She’s a maybe. Yeh, she’ll finish the Phoenix Course and she’s already detoxed and its blah, blah, blah. Let’s do what they did with 7-UP. Go back every seven years. I wouldn’t put money on her not relapsing.
Natalie and Natalie A. The first Natalie has two kids, one at fourteen, the other three. She seemed to do well. Made her way through the Phoenix programme. Good support from her parents. A good bet, until you hear her talking about going home to a small village. Ho-hum.
Natalie A is more straight forward. She relapsed while on the programme. Bought cocaine while out at the supermarket and tested positive. All residents are regularly tested. She was given another chance. She didn’t take it. But she was allowed to leave with her children. She was-temporarily- straight. Certainty to go back on drugs.
Five residents are filmed, can’t remember who the other one was. I’d guess three or four will relapse. We can’t save everybody, but we’ve got to act as if we can. It’s not just about the mothers. It’s about the kids. Between twenty-five to fifty percent of the prison population is made up of those that were in care. We really don’t care. Phoenix is a sticking plaster, but even that is better than nowt. As that old addict Whitney Houston used to warble. ‘Children are our future’. What we do with them now matters. I’ll watch the next episode with interest. Fingers crossed it’s a happy ending. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that filming people changes their behaviour. I’d be interested in what happens after.