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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Drugs battle: A problem of funds
By Paul Stevens
BBC News Interactive

Kwads office
Knowle West has battled a drugs problem for many years
Community projects in Bristol have been fighting an uphill battle against drugs for many years.

The fight was spearheaded by organisations like the Bristol Drugs Project, Knowle West Alcohol and Drugs Service (Kwads) and the Southmead Project.

Funding, however, has never been easy to acquire and the last two of these only survive thanks to a 500,000 donation from the city council's Safer Bristol Partnership.

Kwads was started in 1995 by local woman Mary Smith whose son was jailed for drugs offences.

The group started as a loose collective of deeply concerned local residents who had drugs problems in their families and who provided mutual support.

Drug project

As the years passed, however, those residents gave way to a group of dedicated, professionally-trained staff who now offer a structured 10-week support programme.

Lucy Delaney, of Kwads, said: "What we provide now is on a par with any other drug project. We have the same database and attend the same training courses.

"We have a number of different projects, specialising in working with social workers, doing structured group work and one-to-one work.

"There is a second generation of users coming into the service now but, as always, the problem is a shortage of funding and there's no knowing what the political climate will be in two years when the funding runs out."

Knowle West
Funding is a constant battle for drugs-battling agencies
The Bristol Drugs Project (BDP) treats more than 3,000 people a year, offering a central helpline and even offering support to people who come in off the street to its St Pauls office.

Maggie Telfer, of BDP, told BBC News Interactive the city had the third worst problem in the country.

"That shows the scale of the problem we have, especially with crack cocaine in the city," she said.

"The last outbreak of heroin was in 1992, then crack in 1999, so in many ways Bristol was hit much earlier than many other cities. So we've had the problems for longer, before there was central government money to deal with it."

She thinks the battle against drugs in the city is more or less settled at present.

"We are in a sort of stable situation, but selling drugs is a global and extremely profitable business and if the people in that business see that market shrinking, they go elsewhere.

"What is not yet here is methylamphetamine, a stimulant that is already a problem in South East Asia, in New Zealand, Australia and in the US."

'More funding'

Councillor Gary Hopkins, chairman of the Safer Bristol Partnership, thinks the city fares well in its battle with drugs, considering its limited resources.

"Some city's anti-crime and drugs initiatives are given a good deal more funding than Bristol," he said.

"In terms of funding we are about 18th in the list, but we are getting people into treatment at lower cost than anywhere else in the country."

The Transform Drug Policy Foundation is a Bristol-based charitable think tank, consisting of people who believe that drug prohibition itself is a major cause of drug-related harm which "should be replaced by effective, just and humane government control and regulation".

Steve Rolls, of the foundation, said: "Our basic argument is that drugs are a serious problem but the criminal focus on them tends to make the problem worse, not better.

"It makes drugs more dangerous than they are, it creates illegal markets by pushing the prices up and it pushes chaotic users into offending.

"What we want to see is all drugs considered in the same way as alcohol and tobacco; that they are all viewed as public health issues and regulatory regimes are put in place that are appropriate to the drug."




SEE ALSO
Funding lifeline for drug project
24 Feb 06 |  Bristol/Somerset
Anti-drugs project under threat
11 Jan 06 |  Bristol/Somerset

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