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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Cumbrian drugs charity boss being made redundant

The man who has led Cumbria’s best known drugs and alcohol charity for the last 20 years is being made redundant to save money.

Paul Brown photo
Paul Brown

Paul Brown, 63, has been a prominent contributor to the county’s drugs and alcohol debate in his role as director of Cadas (Cumbria Alcohol & Drug Advisory Service).

But the economic downturn and the mounting financial pressure that continues to afflict charities throughout the county have triggered the decision to axe his post.

In an exclusive interview with The Cumberland News, Mr Brown said he accepted that the move was necessary to make Cadas financially sustainable and ensure its long-term survival.

As he prepared for his departure next month, Mr Brown paid tribute to the charity which has helped thousands of Cumbrians cope with and conquer potentially deadly addictions and habits.

Cadas has also increasingly worked in the field of drug and alcohol education and developed support services for the families of users.

Mr Brown said: “This has been a great place to work: I can’t remember a day when I haven’t looked forward to coming into work. The people at Cadas – the staff, the volunteers, and clients – have all been a joy to work with.”

Mr Brown reflected on the grim financial reality that now challenges charities such as Cadas – and the ever increasing difficulty of securing funding for services which ultimately save the tax payer money.

“Everybody believes that Cadas is a positive force in Cumbria,” he said, “and our executive had no choice but to do what they are doing if they wanted this charity to continue to be sustainable.

“It will carry on and it will continue to make a positive difference to people.

“But the Big Society does need to be paid for. You can perhaps rely solely on volunteers if you’re just tidying up your street, but an operation like Cadas that works with vulnerable people has to be professional: there has to be structure and supervision and proper management.”

Mr Brown said he found it “strange” that local health chiefs had awarded a key contract for prison and community drug and alcohol recovery services in Cumbria to the Manchester West Mental Health Foundation Trust.

Cadas recently lost £30,000 of public funding for counselling services in Carlisle and Workington and a similar amount for training professionals in substance misuse issues.

A former art student and professional musician, Mr Brown was inspired to work in the drugs and alcohol field after addiction led to the early deaths of several people he knew, including his best friend.

He said: “I was 21 when my best friend died because of heroin. I remember thinking what an idiot he’d been.

“But as the years went by I began wondering if there was anything I could have done to help him.

“There were young people, and older people, killing themselves with drugs and I wanted to know what was going on. Then in 1991, I saw the advert in the paper for a job at Cadas and it jumped out at me.

“That was in 1991, and a couple of years later I became director. I have friends who have asked me how I can work with such ‘manipulative’ people all the time but our clients are just like me and you.”

Often, people turn to substance abuse to escape from a dreadful trauma: a bereavement, or abuse that has corroded their self-belief.

“One client had been abandoned as a baby on a doorstep in the Midlands; another had been part of a big family who were poisoned by their stepmother with strychnine in the night and he was the only survivor.

“They’re extreme examples but I believe it’s usually possible to resolve issues around drugs and alcohol. Cadas is still absolutely viable.

“There are young people coming through this charity who are passionate and committed about what we do and there are 159 committed volunteers. Our essential services will carry on.”

One of those key staff is Helen Davies, who said staff were shocked and saddened by Paul’s redundancy but determined to continue with the charity’s unique and valuable work in Cumbria.

She said: “We all value what we do and we value everybody we work with.

“The people who come here know it’s special and with support most can make positive changes in their lives.”

Have your say

How can we afford to lose this guy's expertise? One would like to think the drugs problem is diminishing - that would justify it, a little -maybe - but I only see evidence of increased misuse of drugs. Young people, especially, are desperately in need of advice and help - why throw away this experience. A short-sighted moved

Posted by Andrew J Titcombe on 17 September 2012 at 10:10

you will be missed Paul. Cadas has been a well-run and effective organisation and it was a privelige to work with you when I was head of sure start in carlisle.

Posted by LYNDA DEVLIN OBE on 7 September 2012 at 19:37

View all 4 comments on this article

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