Looking after our staff and service users during the coronavirus pandemic
Tuesday 24 March 2020

Forward are committed to protecting the health and wellbeing of our staff and service users during the coronavirus pandemic. We want to keep people safe, especially given the Government’s recent advice to limit social contact, at the same time as trying to ensure we continue to provide whatever support we can to our service users, many of whom will need it more than ever.

Here are the steps we are taking. We will of course review these on an ongoing basis, in line with Government and Public Health England guidance:

Community-based substance misuse services

We have called a halt to all group work – i.e. service provision in group settings. This obviously brings difficulties for those who attend self-help groups as part of their ongoing recovery and support, but locations that normally host groups are closing them in order to protect communities.

During this period where many are self-isolating, it is even more important that you stay connected and access support, so we are looking at ways for service users to stay in contact by phone and online.

Forward Connect is a support group set-up for anyone who is part of the Forward Trust family. You can access support by emailing forwardconnect@forwardtrust.org.uk or by calling our freephone number 0300 124 0440.

Many fellowships (e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous) are creating daily online meetings, which is great for people to maintain contact and support from home. For those who do not have the equipment to go online, or join meetings, there are helpline numbers available. Please see below for contact information.


Join an online community or support group

These online communities give you the chance to get support from others going thought similar things to you, and share your experiences too.

SMART Recovery online meetings run five days a week

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous offer online meetings

SoberRecovery.com is a community of more than 168,000 people, with discussion forums for drug and alcohol users, and their friends and family

StopDrinking on Reddit is a busy online support group for people trying to control or stop their drinking

HealthUnlocked has free, moderated support communities for people with anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions

Helplines and other sources of support

NA Helpline number 0300 999 1212

AA Helpline number 0800 917 7650

CA Helpline 0800 612 0225

Al-Anon UK Helpline 0800 0086 811

If you live in East Kent and are worried about your drug or alcohol use, we are here to help. Please call 0300 123 1186 to speak to a member of the team to find out how we can support you. However, if it is an emergency (for example if you are worried someone has overdosed) please call 999.

We are maintaining a prescribing service for our existing clients and supporting them with telephone consultations from their key workers as well as medical reviews with their prescriber. Pharmacists are also giving them support at this difficult time.

Unfortunately, at this time, we are temporarily unable to offer our usual service to new clients who have not yet started a prescription, as there is various testing that needs to take place in order to start clients on a new prescription to ensure their safety. Instead, we are offering new clients expert telephone advice and consultation – including support and guidance, harm-reduction advice, and information on where they can access needle exchanges and Naloxone.

We appreciate being released from prison at this time can be particularly difficult. For prison releases, we have an excellent system of communication with the medical services in the prisons, meaning that we can co-ordinate continuity of care for clients who are already on a prescription for drug treatment, so that their care can continue in the community on release. We will also be providing them with regular phone support.

A weekly text is also going out to all our service users in East Kent offering reassurance to some of the concerns we have received throughout the week and an update about service provision.

Pharmacies should be open, but you may like to call ahead to your local pharmacy to check their opening times and to be aware of any unexpected reductions in services, given this rapidly changing situation.

Advice for staying safe and looking after yourself

Forward have created a leaflet for people who inject drugs, with advice on how to stay safe during the pandemic. It can be downloaded here

Crew Scotland have advice on staying safe and hygienic if you drink or use drugs. There is important information about reducing harm and preventing coronavirus transmission when smoking, drinking, snorting, injecting, dabbing or bumping drugs.

Drugs and Me is an online harm-reduction guide to safer drug use.

Calm is offering a selection of online relaxation exercises and meditation tools.

Headspace is offering free meditations, exercises and healthy sleep activities during the pandemic.

Prison-based substance misuse services

Our frontline staff in prisons provide a vital service to prisoners who have issues with drugs and alcohol. As the safety and well-being of our staff and service users is of paramount importance, group work has been paused and all prescribing is continuing as normal. All one-to-one appointments are being held in line with appropriate social distancing measures. However, we are aware that this is a fluid situation and that things are subject to change. We are working with Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Services (HMPPS) to keep our service delivery levels under daily review and will be guided by the decisions of Government, prisons and health authorities.


Housing services

The Resettlement service is still operating.  We will be providing telephone assessments only for any new referrals. We are working with our landlords to ensure viewings can still take place safely. We are also providing telephone and online support, as well as assistance to all of our housing clients. We have telephone mentors in place to help those that require additional support.


Family support services

If you are a family member or friend needing support as a result of someone else’s substance misuse, we understand that this is likely to be a worrying and stressful time for you. Currently our community based family support groups are not being delivered as a result of Government guidance. However, our Family Support Team at our Hull ReNew service are continuing to operate phone support for family and friends on 07836 526520.

If you are based in East Kent, you could contact the Forward Connect Team by email on forwardconnect@forwardtrust.org.uk or by calling our freephone number 0300 124 0440 and our Recovery Team will do their best to signpost you to any HUB services that may be able to support you at this time via telephone.

Please visit our Family Support page on the Forward Trust website (www.forwardtrust.org.uk/our-services/family-support/) for information on coping and where else you might look for help. You can also complete a request for support enquiry or email us at FamilySupport@forwardtrust.org.uk

National online and phone support is available from the Al-Anon Fellowship (0800 008 6811 or www.alanonuk.org.uk) or Families Anonymous Fellowship (0207 498 4680 or www.famanon.org.uk) who are still operating their support helplines during this time and have information on their websites in relation to online meetings in certain areas.


Employment services

All Forward staff who work in our eight prisons delivering the Prison Education Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) information, advice and guidance (IAG) are either working in prisons or working from home.  All staff working in prison are following public health guidelines on social distancing and also adapting delivering methods including using Virtual Campus and/or in-cell learning.

All community contracts staff (including enterprise support) are working from home and maintaining regular contact with learners and clients through phone, face time, Microsoft teams and Skype. For our vocational training provision we are moving to virtual learning platforms and still engaging new learners.

We are still working with employers and apprenticeship providers virtually and planning for future recruitment.

Our Forward Enterprise Fund and enterprise support is still in place and operating.

Blue Sky Services, our social enterprise is still delivering some services where our staff are key workers, and social distancing rules can be observed. We are pausing some delivery for the next three weeks.

Please contact: Employment@forwardtrust.org.uk




Trew Era café

Our café in Hackney is now closed, following the guidelines from the Government.


Supporting our staff 

We are communicating regularly with our staff to ensure they are safe and have the answers to any questions they may have. This includes information on all HR (including sick pay and childcare arrangements) and operational matters, as well as updating and circulating COVID 19 Guidance and Action Cards regularly – following advice from Public Health England, the NHS, Gov.uk and the World Health Organisation. We are proud that all our staff are acting with professionalism and pragmatism at this time and cannot thank them enough.

- Head office and administrative offices – non client-facing staff

We have followed Government advice to close down our administrative offices and have made arrangements for all staff in these offices to work from home.

- Staff working in the services – client-facing staff

We are constantly looking at ways to keep our service-based staff safe through adapting working practices, including phone appointments and temporarily suspending group work. If government and HMPPS advice is to withdraw staff from the work place, we will implement this advice promptly.


More information

• More information on our services can be found at https://www.forwardtrust.org.uk/our-services/
• More information on coronavirus from the NHS can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
• More information on coronavirus from Public Health England can be found at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
• If you are worried about the impact of COVID-19 on your mental health, the NHS has some useful tips for dealing with the anxiety you may face. It can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-anxiety-tips/

We will continue to monitor the situation and make any necessary adjustments, in line with Government guidelines and with the aim of doing all we can to protect and support.