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It’s our 20th anniversary – read about Simon’s incredible journey with SMART!


I am proud to be an employee of SMART for nearly 11 years and a service user with SMART for 9 years prior to that, which pretty much means that I’ve been around since SMART’s birth. I am very grateful to SMART for giving me the opportunity and believing in me.

I had my first introduction to SMART in 1996 as a service user, this was when SMART first started swooping Police cells, Court cells. A time when part of a ‘drugs intervention’ was smoking a cigarette (supplied by your worker) while having a chat. How SMART has changed since then! This was the beginning of a service that has developed a professional role in helping to change people’s lives.

I remember attending SMART at different locations in Oxford back then. Mainly the Cowley road, then East Avenue, and behind a Church near Cowley Police Station. The buildings were usually run down, damp and not too busy. For me it took time to trust in this service. Getting help for drug addiction back then was unheard of, other than Doctors; after all, why would anyone want to help addicts? We thought that surely these people must pass information on to the Police, there was a definite lack of trust. Eventually word did get around that SMART simply wanted to help you! It was a new experience, finally having a drugs worker and service that understood, cared, listened and just wanted you to get well. Before SMART, my experience had been; psychiatrists, mental institutions, Doctors and Prison.

Finally, in 2004, thanks to an intervention from SMART and the Police working together (Prolific Priority Offender scheme-PPO) I went off to rehab and got clean. Post rehab I linked in with SMART’s aftercare service and was encouraged by my aftercare worker to engage with the SMART Mentoring scheme. I started to get some basic education, using a computer, credited qualifications, assessing risk, dealing with others etc. I committed as a mentor/volunteer for 15 months and this lead to employment with SMART in 2006, as part of a new government initiative called “Tough Choices- Test on Arrest.” By this time SMART had won contracts in Oxford, High Wycombe, Slough, Bracknell and Reading. SMART Head Office at the time was based in East Avenue, Oxford, followed by various other buildings, which they soon outgrew; Cutteslow being another. And now Kirtlington, with its beautiful grounds and views.

Tough Choices ended when the Governments 10 year drugs initiative plan expired. The negatives from the plan were that we saw some people in treatment getting saturated with Methadone. There have however be many positives including clean needles; funding for residential rehab became more available, BBV’s have reduced, harm minimisation education has been delivered and continues to form part of effective drugs work. Evidence based interventions have been key in recent years, more alcohol interventions, recovery based groups, more planning, with criminal justice still playing its part. I’ve seen countless people getting stable and clean, although sometimes this can be a long journey with service users, but we don’t give up!

I have had various roles during my time with SMART that include; Trainee DIP worker (Drugs Intervention Program) DIP worker, Prison Link, PPO (Prolific Priority Offender)/Prison Link, Senior Case Manager EPPO (Enhanced Prolific Priority Offender) and my current role as Residential Recovery Worker at SMART Howard House Detox Unit in Oxford. Also in this time, I have worked with various managers and colleague’s, different offices, different areas which include; Slough, Maidenhead, Bracknell, Windsor, Reading and Oxford and I have worked under three different CEO’s. I have seen SMART go through many changes, but keep focused on supporting those who need help.

So, all I can say is Happy 20th anniversary to SMART, a company that I am proud to be part of.  Long may we continue saving and changing people’s lives!

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