'It saved my life' -- heartfelt plea by recovering addict to rescue Mansfield charity

As an alcoholic for 15 years, Claire Hannah’s lowest point was being kicked out of her home, forcing her to live in a Wendy house in a friend’s back garden.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 5:15 pm
Mum Claire Hannah, who is able to spend happy days again with her two daughters, Ella-Grace, 10, and Louise, five.

She says her life was saved only by help from Double Impact, a Mansfield-based charity for recovering addicts.

Now she herself wants to save that charity, which is under the threat of closure if it doesn’t receive the funding it needs.

Double Impact, which has an academy based on St John Street in the town, is a service that has been helping to rebuild the lives of alcohol and drug addicts for several years. It currently has about 50 people on its books.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A meeting at Double Impact's hub in Mansfield before lockdown.

However, it will be forced to shut its doors at the end of April if it does not receive the National Lottery grant it has applied for.

It is one of thousands of charities up and down the country that are under extreme funding pressure because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mum-of-two Claire, from Sutton, says closure would be disastrous for the people of Mansfield, Ashfield and surrounding areas because it provides crucial support for so many people.

She said: “I am fortunate enough to be in sustained recovery from alcohol addiction.

Double Impact has adapted to lockdown by holding group calls on Zoom.

"I had tried many ways to get sober on my own, without support, which always ended in relapse.

"But then I got involved with Double Impact, and I truly believe I wouldn’t be here without it.

"If it closes, there will be a devastating impact on people’s welfare and the town’s health services, and it could lead to crime rates increasing.

"I just want to get the word out that this is a much-needed service, and we need support to keep it going.

“There is another service in Mansfield called CGL (Change Grow Live), but it is overloaded with people needing support for treatment. Double Impact has filled a gap for everyone in recovery.”

Claire, 36, was only a teenager when she first started to drink heavily. She said: “I was struggling with my mental health and used alcohol to cope. Slowly, I got worse.

"By 2017, I had to quit my job in accounts, I was homeless, I lost my driving licence and I couldn’t even see my kids.

"I lost everything because of alcohol, and I was reduced to living in a Wendy house in someone’s back garden.

"Double Impact was my turning point. It saved my life – and that is not being over-dramatic.

"It is an amazing charity, and it is very worrying that it might close.”

Claire, who is now a mentor for Double Impact, has turned her life around thanks to the charity.

"I am fully recovered now,” she said. “I have been on lots of courses and I am applying for jobs.

"I have my own home, and I am back with my daughters, Ella-Grace, who is ten, and Louise, who is five. How would I have got here without Double Impact?”

Claire is so distressed at the prospect of closure for the charity that she has contacted local MPs and Mansfield mayor Andy Abrahams and is even thinking of starting a petition to try and save it.

Double Impact offers a unique service that helps people recovering from addiction to access education, jobs and personal-development opportunities so they can regain their place in society.

Its academy in Mansfield is a bright and welcoming hub that gets addicts involved in learning, training, volunteering and other activities to enhance their long-term recovery.

Other success-stories include Andy, who was addicted to cannabis for 26 years, from the age of 14. His lowest point came when he ended up in hospital after being beaten up by a drug-dealer.

Double Impact helped him recover and gave him training as a chef at a Nottingham cafe it set up as a safe social space for recovering addicts.

He went on to gain a work-experience placement at one of the city’s top restaurants and is now well on his way to forging a successful, new career.

As well as supporting individuals such as Claire and Andy, the charity has provided training for local employers on how to deal with alcohol and drug issues in the workforce.

Since the pandemic struck a year ago, the charity has received two emergency grants of £40,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund to help keep it going.

The organisation has also adapted its service during lockdown, introducing online support that has included one-to-one health and wellbeing checks, and group meetings via Zoom.

Graham Miller, chief executive of Double Impact, said: “Many of our service-users felt isolated during lockdown – and isolation is a key feature of addictions, as well as a risk factor for relapse.

"But the funding went a long way towards preventing that, thereby protecting local NHS services.”

Now Mr Miller is hoping that the charity’s latest application for Lottery funding can enable it to continue and develop for a further four years.

However, it’s a question of fingers crossed until the deadline of April 23 because the Lottery is under intense pressure to fund so many other charities that have been badly hit by the pandemic and lockdown.

Mr Miller said: “The Lottery has been amazing for us, and continues to be amazing. But we just have to hope that we are seen as one of its priorities again.

"The pandemic has hindered the ability to raise funds of all charities except the bigger ones, making it a highly competitive market for Lottery funding.

"We have had to say to people that if our funding does not go beyond April 23, we will close.

"We understand the angst of our service-users, and we know this is destabilising and upsetting for them.

"But we are making sure everyone has a plan and receives support from other parts of our service.

"In normal circumstances, I would be confident of getting the funding, but there is still a doubt.”