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Liz becomes new chair of drug and alcohol project 

Liz Wiggins has been appointed as the new chairperson of the Matthew Project, opening a fresh chapter in the history of the Norfolk-based charity.

She gave an interview so that people could learn more about her, and about the Matthew Project, which supports people with drug and alcohol issues.

Why did you decide to become Chair of The Matthew Project?

I am a huge believer in the importance of community and for a while I had been looking for a way of doing something useful where I could give my time and skills. Someone emailed me the job specification for the Chair of the Matthew Project. I asked my husband for his thoughts about who we knew who might be interested. He said why didn't I apply. So I did.

What does The Matthew Project do?

Our main role is supporting people impacted by drug and alcohol related issues, providing innovative education about the risks of drugs and alcohol and empowering people to make more informed choices and break down barriers to fulfilling their potential. The Matthew Project is based largely in Norfolk but also works in Suffolk and Essex. We are blessed with a fabulous recovery hub in Norwich called Next Steps which provides a welcoming environment for service users.

Before I took on the role, I met the outgoing Chair, Paul Hoey, for a coffee. He has been involved with the charity for over 15 years so has played a huge role in shaping and guiding it to become the organisation it is today. He described the charity as working with people who aren't just on the margins of society but who have fallen off the page. That phrase really stuck with me. It made me want to be involved.

Who does The Matthew Project help?

The Matthew Project provides a place of hope, working with young people and veterans, providing support not judgement and practical help to recover from addiction and then build skills and self-esteem so that individuals don't relapse. We help young people who have addiction issue themselves or who are affected by the addition of other family members. 
 
We also run support groups for parents who often feel very isolated and struggle to know what to do, or who to talk to, if their children have become involved in drugs or alcohol.

We also have a programme called 'Outside The Wire' for Veterans run by veterans. This is a group of people who sometimes turn to drugs or alcohol as a means of coping with PTSD and the loss of routine and purpose that comes from no longer being an active member of the Armed Forces.

Where does your funding come from?

Some of our work is commissioned by, for instance, Norfolk County Council. We also apply to a wide range of grant funding bodies and raise money from the community. We are now also seeking to raise our own funds through social enterprises through our Next Steps centre such as furniture upcycling, electrical and bike repair and resale, and historic church renovations.

What difference has Covid made to The Matthew Project?

In the first lockdown, we closed the Norwich Recovery Hub, Next Steps, and our other offices and went to daily on-line and on-phone support. We also delivered welfare packs and would make Covid-safe visits to clients where we had concerns. By the time of the second wave, we were so aware of the impact of not having the centre open for people in recovery, that we were determined to stay open.  
 
We initially funded ourselves all the testing, PPE and changes at the centre, but these costs have subsequently been met with support from the NHS, Norfolk County Council, and Norwich City Council. All our other projects continued to provide support remotely, with face-to-face visits where necessary. As soon as we can, we will resume full in-person support, supplemented with technology.

What are the biggest challenges facing the Charity sector at the moment?

Another way of putting this would be to say what are the challenges facing young people and people affected by substance misuse. Put very simply it is increasing demand at a time when the financial envelope is shrinking. That is why we are very grateful for donations. Places are filling fast for our next event at the Bishop's Garden on May 16.

www.matthewproject.org/bishops-gardens-open-day

What do you do when you're not being Chair?
 
I work for myself as a coach and change consultant. Much of my work is with leaders in the NHS so I very much see my skills as helping those who do the front-line helping, to do their work in a way that is sustainable for them and their organisations.
 
Pictured above is Liz Wiggins
 
 

Eldred Willey, 13/04/2021

Eldred Willey

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