I first met Wulf in Colwyn Bay in 2000 when he was working with the treatment service CAIS. Over the course of a number of meetings in those early years of the new millennium, I found Wulf to be very well-informed and someone who really cared about the people he was trying to help. I soon realised that he is a fascinating character.
There is no doubt that Wulf has done a great deal of good in North Wales and further afield over the years, and has inspired many people. Here is how he describes working with CAIS and then the Probation Service in North Wales.
After two years working with Ian Wardle at Lifeline, Wulf joined the North Wales treatment service CAIS in 1999. He managed CAIS drug and alcohol services across North Wales for five years from 2000, before spending five years doing the same at the Probation Service. This was at a time of much expansion of drug and alcohol service provision, particularly in the criminal justice area.
Wulf and the CAIS CEO had a really healthy relationship, despite being very different people, but this relationship eventually broke down, mostly because Wulf and colleagues wanted an accelerated role in the service for people with lived experience. However, the CEO was resistant to this change, as he felt professionalisation of the service kept the contracts flowing. Ironically, CAIS would have done very much better with service contracts in subsequent years if they had followed the way proposed by Wulf and colleagues, as very soon after the Welsh government started ‘shouting’ its service user involvement agenda.
Wulf had not worked in the statutory sector (central or local government services) since becoming a social worker years before, and was conscious that it was a bit of a requirement that social workers work in this sector. He eventually decided to apply for a job in the North Wales Probation Service which involved managing all their drug and alcohol service provision. He describes in an amusing manner the most bizarre job interview process he’s ever experienced, which ended with him being the ‘last man standing’.
Wulf’s role in Probation included helping the service understand how to manage the different drug and alcohol treatment requirements, dealing with the explosion of group work occurring at this time, and managing the various accreditation processes. The service was ahead of its time in employing people with lived experience. Wulf was managing 50/60 people in seven or eight different offices, and dealing with an internal budget of several million pounds plus the commissioning budget that came for the drug and alcohol treatment work.
Wulf realised that there were limits to the partnership ‘stuff’ which occurred through the Drug and Alcohol Action teams and this really got to him. He had to walk away from this in the end. Probation Service management were really supportive of Wulf’s teaching work, which was occurring at this time, and his PhD research which started in 2008. Two years later, however, the Welsh government created an all-Wales Probation Service based in Cardiff. Wulf was not going to move from North Wales in order to keep his job.