Volunteers mount legal action after assembly axes drug project funding

A group of volunteers who educate young people about drug misuse
are to launch a legal challenge against the Welsh assembly’s
decision to scrap funding for their project,writes
Derren Hayes

The 40 volunteers from Youthlink Wales plan a judicial review
against the assembly for withdrawing the scheme’s £100,000
section 64 grant, which is awarded to voluntary groups to support
health projects. Youthlink Wales says it will be forced to close by
the end of the year unless the assembly reverses its decision.

The organisation trains young people to educate their peers,
particularly hard-to-reach children, such as those excluded from
schools or already misusing drugs, about the dangers of drugs.

Andrew Phillips, Youthlink’s head of strategy, said: “Peers are the
most effective way of reaching these children. Some have dabbled
with drugs and have other life problems. If we have to walk away
then there will be no one doing that work with them, which will
have longer term costs.”

Youthlink was one of the major beneficiaries of the assembly’s
£400,000 Section 64 grant, which was scrapped earlier this
year as it shifted emphasis from prevention to treatment services.

A small sum – £30,000 in Youthlink’s case – has been provided
to enable residential units to continue operating until 2008.

Roger Duncan, director of the Swansea Drugs Project, said the money
was also vital for organisations offering services on a national
and regional basis because most of the funding streams in the
sector were allocated according to local needs.

The Swansea project was forced to end its hepatitis C service,
which the grant funded.

“It’s been a useful source of funding for things that don’t fit in
elsewhere,” Duncan said. “It funded some very innovative projects
and it is a very short-term decision.”

A Welsh assembly spokesperson said Youthlink had been told about
the withdrawal of the grant in December 2004, and that section 64
funding had ended because of changes in the way substance misuse
services were delivered.

“The decision was taken to simplify the way we fund substance
misuse projects by reducing the number of funding streams available
to the voluntary sector,” the spokesperson said. “We now allocate
funding through community safety partnerships so that they can
tackle substance misuse at local level and according to local

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