Community Drug and Alcohol Recovery Services (CDARS) was founded in 1985 by Dorothea Bickerton, a local mother, as a direct response to her family's traumatic experiences of the devastation caused by drug and alcohol addiction.
When Dorothea's eldest son David's addiction turned into a crisis, she struggled to find the help and advice she and her family needed. At that time, little or no support existed, neither for the user nor for their family and carers. Dorothea knew from personal experience that drugs do not just harm the users, and her initiative was her response to fill that vacuum, turning the trauma of her family's own battles with addiction to aid those who also felt alone, isolated and abandoned in their search for support.
Dorothea set up what was, at that time, one of the UK's first family groups to help others facing the damage of drug addiction: Family Support Group for the Relatives of Drug Users. This group - started in Dorothea's home - flourished, developed and expanded to become what is today CDARS.
Dorothea trained as a counsellor, began a 24/7 telephone helpline from her family home, and a support group for families of addicts to come together, share experiences and offer emotional support, and for the addicts themselves. The group rapidly outgrew Dorothea's home and having secured funding and further training, Dorothea obtained premises in Wallington, South London.
Dorothea's son, David, successfully underwent a drug rehabilitation programme, and in 1991 joined his mother to run the group. With their own experiences to draw upon, Dorothea and David became a formidable force in the battle against addiction, expanding their training, building links with St.
George's Hospital Department of Addictive Behaviour, Social Services, South London Borough Councils, and becoming a member of SCODA (Standing Conference on Drug Addiction). As the support group evolved and expanded to offer a wide range of support services, including the first needle exchange in South London, CDARS, as we know it today, emerged.
CDARS was formally established as a charity in 1992 as a service providing emotional, practical and social support to substance misusers, people with mental health issues and other complex needs, their families and carers.
In 1995, David tragically passed away. 'The David Bickerton Trust Fund' was set up in his memory, providing emergency financial support to families battling the crisis of addiction. Dorothea continued to lead the charity until her retirement in 2000. In 2005 she published a memoir of her experiences and her son's battle with addiction - 'A Life Remembered' . Dorothea passed away in 2019.
From humble beginnings, Dorothea and David built CDARS into the largest agency in South London, establishing an exceptional reputation in the addiction field and providing a lifeline for thousands of people suffering the devastation of addiction. They were pioneers in establishing a model of support service that continues to flourish and deliver critical aid today.
The quality of the work delivered by CDARS has been recognised by various bodies over the years, including the Whitbread Community Care Award in 1988, the Certificate of Merit for contributions towards community service from the Co-operative Union Ltd in 1991, Community Award from the Mayor of Merton in 1998, and the Trust for London award for committed services to the community in acknowledgment of outstanding achievement also in 1998.
CDARS has received visits from the Ministry of Crime Reduction, Mayor of London Office and local MP in Merton for its achievements in contributing to reducing drug use and related crime locally.
CDARS is a unique organisation that sets itself apart from many others. It has always been a step ahead and a pioneer in many of the services provided over the years. Services that have become well recognised and part of the national agenda for the treatment of substance misuse. It has 37 years of experience in working with vulnerable people with complex needs and supports over 1,500 users each year.
CDARS has all appropriate quality management systems such as QUADS, DANOS, and ISO27001.
"Behind every drug user beats a heart and a crying family."
Dorothea Bickerton, founder and director 1985-2000