Visiting UK Recovery Friends: Part 5 (Becky Hancock)

I left Ash Whitney’s house in Cilfrew, and headed to Gower (a peninsula just west of Swansea) where I had rented a house in Llangennith for my two boys (Ben and Sam) and myself for four nights. Llangennith is a village on the west coast of Gower which is close to Rhossili Beach, a beautiful surfing beach. I spent my first year renting a house in the village when I took up a position in the Psychology Department at the University of Wales, Swansea in 1992. I ended up living on Gower for 14 years and had such a great time there. I consider Gower to be my spiritual home.

I had closed down my neuroscience laboratory in the university in 2000 because I did not feel that a medical approach and the use of drugs were the answer to helping people overcome drug addiction. I realised that I needed to learn more about the nature of addiction and how it could be overcome by visiting treatment services and talking to practitioners and people trying to overcome addiction.

In my early Wired In days, I spent a good deal of time in a local treatment agency in Swansea, West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA), where I had made some good friends. I was inspired by the passion and knowledge of the staff, in particular Keith Morgan, Dave Watkins, Lawrence Mylan RIP, Fred Tuohy RIP, Esther Mead, Angie Welch, and Chief Executive Norman Preddy. I am still in touch with Keith Morgan these days and I hoped to be able to meet up with him and Dave Watkins on my 2022 visit. However, this was not possible. These two men impacted on me in an incredible way all those years ago, and I know I will catch up with them on my next visit.

In 2000-2002, I was in charge of a national evaluation of all projects supported by the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Fund (DATF) in Wales, a major source of funding for addiction treatment services in the country. My full-time research assistant on this evaluation was one of my former Psychology undergraduate students, Becky Hancock. Whilst on Gower in September this year, I managed to catch up with Becky and her mum Cheryl (who carried out a Wired In project with me years ago and later worked at WGCADA), and Becky’s young son Jacob.

All those years ago, Becky and I visited each of the DATF-funded projects. We described the evaluation process to members of the project (the person hired and normally a senior representative of the organisation) and explained why such a process was necessary. We believed that it was important that the people we visited did not feel that they were being tested and did not feel threatened. We tried to encourage a healthy culture for evaluation in the organisation—the mission should be to continually question and gain information about the different elements of the project and the outcomes arising from the intervention.

I emphasised that we wanted to learn from what they were doing, write project profiles where relevant, and publish them to help other organisations learn from their experiences and be able to develop similar projects if required. Becky wrote a number of project profiles which appeared on the early Wired In websites, and 

One of the most important things we learnt during the initial evaluation was the need for information and education about good practice to be circulated widely. This was made all the more essential given the UK Government’s 1997 drug strategy, which focused on an integrated approach to tackling drug problems involving health, criminal justice and social service sectors. It didn’t take us long to discover that this challenge was not being met well, as emphasised by people working with the various projects. We pointed this out to the Welsh government, but with no response. Our final report was not even published!

I was thrilled to have Becky as a research assistant and she made a very positive contribution to the overall evaluation. We really enjoyed visiting the projects and learnt a great deal. Importantly, Becky was very passionate about the field, and in helping people overcome substance use and related problems. We spent a good deal of time down at WGCADA, so it was no great surprise that she eventually ended up working there. In fact, Becky has made a serious contribution to the organisation over the years.

In 2003, Becky was appointed as the first Arrest Referral Worker in Bridgend. Three years later, she started working in Swansea as the organisation’s Manager of Criminal Justice Services, with responsibility for Probation, Prison and Community Contracts. She joined the Senior Management Team in 2008 as the Deputy Head of Operations and later moved to the Head of Treatment Services. She obtained a MPhil in the Department of Psychology at Swansea; her qualitative research project was focused on the 12-Step Recovery programme and the process of change.

Becky became deputy CEO in 2014, of what was later known as Welsh Centre for Action on Dependency and Addiction (WCADA), and remained in that position until WCADA was merged into Adferaid Recovery. She left the organisation in August 2021 and is now working as a Substance Misuse and Mental Health Policy Officer with the South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner’s team.

It was great catching up with Becky and talking about how her career has developed over the time I have been living in Australia. We both couldn’t get over the fact that she had been my first Wired In team member, over 20 years ago! Becky’s son Jacob was a lovely little boy and my son Sam really enjoyed playing with him. And it was great to see Becky’s mum Cheryl again after all these years. The setting for our reunion was very special—the Kings Head in Llangennith, one of my favourite pubs anywhere.

And as for my holiday with my two sons, 26-year old Ben and 21-year old Sam. It was very, very special. I even managed to get them to climb Llanmadoc Hill and walk out onto Worm’s Head at Rhossili. We had such a good time together. It’s been very tough over the years being so far away from them.