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Monday, 24 November 2014

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Cash crisis forces Cumbrian charity's closure

A charity that helped steer thousands of schoolchildren away from drug abuse is to close because it has run out of money.

Dave Smith photo
Dave Smith

The innovative work of the Rising Sun Trust has been widely praised.

Those who have spoken highly of its work in schools across west and east Cumbria include the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Richard Rhodes.

Even Prime Minister David Cameron has backed the trust’s strategy of using reformed drug addicts to spell out the dangers of addiction.

The trust’s Know Project goes directly into schools in areas including Workington, Whitehaven, and Carlisle, delivering real-life stories of how drugs and alcohol can destroy young lives.

Last year, the project worked with 3,150 young people throughout the county.

Had the trust been able to continue, the project’s potentially life-saving work would this year have reached 4,500 school children.

But 15 years after it was set up by Dave Smith, whose son Ryan died as a result of substance misuse, the charity is being wound up.

Mr Smith, who has been awarded an MBE for his pioneering work, said: “We’re devastated to be closing as we strive to prevent young people exploring the same paths we have experienced or witnessed.

“The young people of Cumbria are missing out on a vital part of life education.

“There’s simply no funding for this type of project, even though the Prime Minister was interviewed last year and [highlighted] the need to provide young people with the exact kind of education we provide. It’s so frustrating.”

Mr Smith added: “The final straw was a rejection of funding from the Crime Commissioner's community fund even after he had spent a day with us praising us for the work we were doing in contributing towards safer communities.

“I would like to thank the people of Cumbria who have supported us previously and also the trust staff and trustees.”

Former police drugs squad officer Eric Field worked alongside Mr Smith and two other staff, who will lose their jobs, on the trust’s various initiatives.

He said: “It would have cost about £60,000 a year to keep the trust going. It’s not a lot of money. Sadly, teachers generally don’t know enough about these issues and we have been able to go into schools and tell pupils real stories.

“We don’t tell children to not take drugs. We simply spell out the consequences.

“We’ve had a lot of glowing testimonials for the work we’ve done in schools. I’ve seen a lot of projects over the last couple of years with the police trying to keep kids off the streets, and they don’t tend to last very long.

“Our trust has been going a long time, and it was getting better and better.”

Mr Field thanked those who have supported the charity, including John Rowland, of the Romar Innovate Trust in west Cumbria.

The trust concludes its projects this week but Mr Smith and Mr Field will continue looking for ways to carry on their work.

Mr Rhodes said today: “The funds available to the Police and Crime Commissioner are limited, and from time to time hard decisions have to be made. But this doesn’t detract in any way from the good work being done by a number of charitable organisations.”

He added that he had asked his office to look at the issue to explore what potential way forward there might be for the trust.

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