Phoenix Group Homes was established in 1966 by a group of local mental health professionals, led by Dr Richard Fox, who was the Consultant Psychiatrist at Severalls Hospital. Mr Al Adams, who was the Area Psychiatric Social Worker for North East Essex became the charity’s first Hon Secretary in October 1966, and a grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation played a crucial part in establishing the charity as a viable concern. Janet Jacklin was appointed as the charity’s own dedicated Social Worker, who took on the role of Hon Secretary from 1971 to 1997 when she stepped down, and Colin Biggins was elected as Hon Secretary.
The charity was a pioneer in the field of care in the community - a new concept back then - and set up group accommodation, which enabled people who had been institutionalised in psychiatric units, to move from long-stay institutions into homes of their own. Our innovative work ensured that Phoenix Group Homes became recognised both nationally and internationally.
In 1974, the charity extended its remit to include people with mild learning disabilities, who until then had been housed in specialised learning disabilities hospitals, whilst working closely with Dr Robert McKibben, Consultant Psychiatrist at Turner Village and his rehabilitation team.
In 1993, Phoenix continued to expand its operations and set up a residential rehabilitation project for people recovering from alcohol dependency. This initiative was in response to the closure of the local inpatient unit at Severalls Hospital for the treatment of alcoholism. This project operated out of Oxford Road and was known locally as the 9 Oxford Road Alcohol Project.
In 2008, Phoenix Group Homes rebranded as Phoenix Homes Colchester (PHC), with both Phoenix Group Homes and 9 Oxford Road Alcohol Project forming its main areas of work.
Over the years, both projects have changed and adapted their working practices. On the housing front, we continue to provide accommodation to people with mental health and/or mild learning disabilities. However, it is no longer just about having somewhere to live, but also about putting support in place to allow clients to move on with their lives and to achieve as independent a life as possible.
The Alcohol Project also developed new ways of working outside of the service specification of our contract with Essex County Council that included family meetings and carer support sessions, outreach work with street drinkers in Clacton-on-Sea and facilitating mutual self-support groups in a variety of social settings. The project also contributed to the education of other allied professionals providing practice placements for community nurses, occupational therapists and social workers.
In April 2019, our contract to run the Alcohol Project came to an end, and our service was transferred to another provider covering the whole of Essex. We are proud of what we achieved over many years and are pleased that the majority of our staff moved over to the new provider ensuring that our good work continues.