The founder of a Birmingham-based charity that has helped hundreds of people to recover from alcohol and drug addiction has been named as Barclays’ 2021 National Social Entrepreneur of the Year.
Steve Dixon, who started Changes UK in Digbeth in 2009, beat off competition from all over the UK to claim the prize, with judges praising his pioneering approach to recovery that has seen 85% of the people it engages with complete rehabilitation and move on to independent living.
His eye for an opportunity was highlighted through the organisation’s growing collection of social enterprises, including Changes Gardening, Small Changes Charity Shop for young children, Changes Coffee, Pulse IT and, soon to be opening, RECON vintage clothes and homewear.
These ventures help generate valuable income and, crucially, are providing work and skills opportunities for clients as they move through the ‘recovery journey’.
“It’s a massive honour to receive this award from Barclays and I still have to pinch myself sometimes when I consider where I’ve come from to where I am now,” said Birmingham-born Steve Dixon, who started his own recovery from addiction in 2004.
“Changes UK has given me a purpose and the amazing team we now have in place are helping many others find a life of freedom and recovery from active addiction and mental health challenges.
“This award is for all those people who are starting out on their journeys and beginning to believe that they too can succeed and achieve their dreams.”
Changes UK started 12 years ago in response to Steve’s own personal journey and the lack of end-to-end support available to people in the Birmingham area.
The social entrepreneur saw the opportunity to change that by creating a service that takes people through detox, into safe housing, through a recovery programme and into training and employment – reconnecting with their families and loved ones in the process.
Recovery Central, nestled under the arches in Digbeth, is at the heart of this approach, offering a vibrant space for people to seek help, learn new skills and connect with other members of Birmingham’s growing recovery community.
“97% of people who come to Changes UK are long-term unemployed, with 76% homeless – addiction is often a result of difficult life experiences leading to homelessness, where people have lost all hope. Our approach helps those struggling with addiction to believe they deserve a life of dignity, hope and purpose,” said Steve.
“It just makes sense to me that the only way to ensure we can plug the needs of our community in challenging times, particularly during austerity, is for us to combine profits from business with social objectives.”
He added: “In terms of social impact, for every £1 invested in Changes UK and our services, it delivers a wider social return on investment of £14.58.”