Demand for North East addiction charity soars during cost of living crisis

There has been a huge increase in demand for a North East addiction charity during the cost of living crisis.

Northern Engagement into Recovery from Addiction Foundation (NERAF) in Sunderland provides support for people who are struggling with alcohol and drug addiction.

Before July last year, the charity was open two days a week and focused on working with males on probation. Due to increased demand, they widened their service to members of the public and are now operating five days a week.

NERAF currently have more than 140 clients accessing support for addiction. The workload of one of their recovery coaches has increased from eight people to 63 people.

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The number of people attending group support has also increased significantly. The charity gone from running one group with two participants to five groups with as many as 30 attendees.

Chief Executive Amanda Lowery said that 90% of their clients are are seeking help for alcohol addiction and 80% of them are working. She said the other 10% of people are receiving support for substance misuse.

Chief Executive Amanda Lowery
Chief Executive Amanda Lowery

The 43-year-old, who lives in Sunderland, said: “A lot of our clients are concerned about the cost of living, particularly people who are in recovery.

“We’re concerned at the moment about how many people are going to come through the door needing support because of the financial struggles they’re going to have. A lot of people are using alcohol as a coping mechanism.

“People are going to start cutting back on what isn’t seen as necessary. A lot of people will find they are dependant and they didn’t realise because they’ve always had the money to drink and now they don’t. They’ll have physical issues around that or mental health issues.”

NERAF, which has been operating since 2011, is located within the Sunderland Mind Wellbeing Hub on Church Street East in Hendon. It receives funding from a number or organisations including Sunderland City Council.

Amanda said the charity currently has four members of staff and 14 volunteers. She said they hope to be able to open seven days a week but they need funding to do so.

Northern Engagement into Recovery from Addiction Foundation (NERAF) is based in Sunderland.
Northern Engagement into Recovery from Addiction Foundation (NERAF) is based in Sunderland.

She said: The real concern around the cost of living is the funding. If we get more money we will be able to get more staff in.

“We’re up to just over 140 clients which we are supporting with four part-time staff. The break down is massive as to how many clients everybody has each.

“I feel it’s going to get much worse. The only way we can prepare is to try and get more volunteers in to support us. We haven’t got the money to hire more staff. We rely on grant funding, we have to put in for as many grants as we can.

“I would like to get our service open seven days a week. People who are dependent need something to take the place of an addiction once you remove it. People need activity and places they can go to fill the time in.”

Amanda said they are currently helping a lot of people who have been released from hospital and are at immediate risk of death. She said the charity does not want to end up in a position where they have to put clients on a waiting list.

She added: “They could be waiting months for support, we pick them up within a couple of days. If they wait too long they are no longer willing to engage, it’s harder to work with them. We’re definitely going to see an increase to that side of it.

“The one thing we want to avoid is starting to get a waiting list. We’re very unusual in that we don’t have one. We don’t want to incur a waiting list and we will unless we get more funding to expand.”

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