Page last updated at 05:41 GMT, Tuesday, 16 June 2009 06:41 UK

Addicts commit crime to get help

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Recovering heroin addict Wayne Marsh, 23, said he finally turned to crime to get onto a treatment programme

Heroin addicts are committing crime to get fast tracked into drug rehab because of waiting lists for treatment, a BBC programme is to reveal.

BBC Wales' Week In Week Out programme, presented by the Velvet Underground's John Cale, also shows how children as young as 12 are using heroin.

The assembly government has doubled funding over the past five years and waiting lists for help have fallen.

But addicts living in the Cardiff area can still wait up to 18 months.

Cale, originally from Carmarthenshire, was a founder member of the cult band Velvet Underground with Lou Reed and now lives in Los Angeles.

But he returned to Wales to make the BBC Wales programme, talking to addicts and also about his own heroin and cocaine use in the past.

The programme features Jamie Harris, from the Sandpits project for under-18s in Swansea.

He said: "Young people come in more often than not around the 15 years old mark, but they are reporting that they first started using heroin younger - possibly 12 or 13."

Desperate times need desperate measures and quite often people might have to go out and offend
Mags Lyons, project worker

Other addicts interviewed by the investigation team revealed that they are committing crime to get treatment more quickly.

Wayne Marsh, 23, who lives in a homeless hostel in Cardiff, said: "Basically the best way to get help is to break the law."

He said when he tried to get treatment last year, he was told he faced a wait of almost two years for an assembly government-funded community scheme in Cardiff.

John Cale
Velvet Underground's John Cale talked to addicts for the programme

But getting a court to issue a drug rehabilitation requirement (DRR) was a shortcut to a methadone programme.

"I committed a shoplifting offence and got caught on purpose because I heard of a programme called the DRR," he said.

Treatment capacity

Another addict called John, originally from Birmingham, said he was told he would face a long wait when he tried to get treatment in Cardiff two months ago.

"The shortest time I'd have to wait is 18 months. That is a long time and I thought it was quite ridiculous. In Birmingham, in two or three weeks, you are on a 'script'," he said.

Mags Lyons, a project worker at the Inroads drugs project in Cardiff, said she was aware that people were breaking the law to get treatment.

"Desperate times need desperate measures and quite often people might have to go out and offend," she said.

Llanelli assembly member Helen Mary Jones said: "It seems to me that as we put more money in, the problem seems to grow. We still don't seem to be getting to the bottom of it.

"I don't think any of us can say we are doing enough.

"When I have parents coming into my constituency surgery saying 'my boy wants to get off heroin but he's going to have to wait four or five months before he can see somebody', then we're not doing enough."

The assembly government said latest figures showed 85% of clients were assessed within four weeks - and 90% of those assessed started treatment within four weeks.

It said £18.8m was being spent this year to community safety partnerships (CSPs) to tackle substance misuse in Wales, an increase of 16.6% on last year's budget, with an extra £11m allocated via local health boards.

"CSPs are currently in the process of submitting expenditure plans for the use of this funding many of which have included proposals to further increase treatment capacity," said the statement

Week In Week Out is on BBC One Wales on Tuesday, 16 June at 2235 BST



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