Local drug and alcohol service faces closure after hundreds of thousands of pounds of council funding slashed

Date published: 25 October 2018

A local drug and alcohol service could close after losing hundreds of thousands of pounds in funds from Rochdale Borough Council.

High Level (Northern) Trust provides support for those who are recovering from drug and alcohol misuse, having supported over 450 clients in 2017/18, offering over 120 counselling sessions and over 2,500 one-to-one sessions.

Originally set up as an organisation to help people in the Rochdale area affected by substance misuse, High Level (Northern) Trust became a charity in 2002.

Since then, High Level has supported over 3,500 service users, currently supporting 163 clients, with a waiting list.

Between 2017/18, the service received £100,000 in funding from Rochdale Borough Council, itself a stark drop from higher figures close to £400,000 in previous years.

Last year it cost High Level (Northern) Trust £186,000 to support 545 people – approximately £350 a year for each service user – a feat it will not be able to do without vital funding.

Despite the obvious need for such a service, the local authority will not be funding the service next year, meaning High Level (Northern) Trust could face closure.

Group therapy sessions will be lost, with other essential sessions being reduced, and having already gone from 15 members of staff in two years to five, staff numbers are set to drop even lower to just three.

Service Manager, Callum Jones said: “We have received no local authority funding this year. This is a drop of £100,000 from last year due to the local authority merging with Oldham’s local authority and a one service for all allocation of funding.

“This led to a large reduction in funding for the area in April 2018.  We received a £29,500 grant from Henry Smith Charity in January.

“Apart from this grant, we have received no major funding. We have bid for local funding from Community Grant fund (Rochdale safer communities) and GMCA social impact (Greater Manchester) fund and Rochdale Township fund.

“With reserves, we probably have another 12 months before closure.”

He continued: “Service users would have to look at other kinds of services for their needs, but if those services aren’t there, they’re probably looking at social isolation or maybe falling back into addition again.

“It’s devastating because we’ve always worked alongside the charity or services commissioned by the council as we work with those who are abstinent. Previously NHS Pathways used to have the contract and work with those in addition, get them to a place of detox or reduction and pass them onto us.

“Our clients like that we are a service separate from those in addition, as there’s no temptation. It’s a trigger for them if they’re around people who are still using.”

The current council contract for drug and alcohol services is offered by Turning Point, which deals with those battling addiction.

Mr Jones added: “As we deal with people who are abstinent, not in addiction, we couldn’t go for the contract that Turning Point has been appointed, but we used to receive this funding anyway.”

The charity has started fundraisers via Give As You Live, which donates a commission from your internet shopping, plus a Wonderful crowd funder at: https://www.wonderful.org/charity/highlevelnortherntrust

Andrea Fallon, director of public health and wellbeing at Rochdale Borough Council said: “In April we introduced Turning Point as our new fully integrated adult drug and alcohol treatment service.

“This offers a wide range of support including assessment, treatment programmes and recovery. It’s a shared contract between Rochdale and Oldham, created to get the right outcomes for local people whilst ensuring the best use of our resources.

“Before we decided what was needed, we consulted widely with service users and our partners to make sure Turning Point met a number of key requirements.

“High Level Trust service users are eligible for support from Turning Point and we encourage anyone who feels that they need support for drugs or alcohol dependency to get in touch with Turning Point either directly or via their GP.

“Although this support is in place, we recognise the challenges for High Level (Northern) Trust and it is well received by its service users. However, like many charities they are facing strong competition when applying for alternative funding.”

One service user, a former heroin addict called David, has managed to turn his life around thanks to the High Level (Northern) Trust.

He told BBC Radio Manchester: “I was brought up in a dysfunctional family and I was introduced to drugs. It was kind of what you did.

“I was addicted for 30 years. It went from party drugs to heroin.

“I’m now in recovery and I’m now rebuilding relationships. Through High Level and their support, that was the start to my life. I’d do anything for this place.

“This is the frontline; where are people meant to go?”

Dawn O’Neill, of Spotland, also called the service a lifeline, telling BBC Radio Manchester that ‘there was nothing after her alcohol detox.’

She said: “High Level is fantastic; there’s nowhere like it. You can talk to anybody, and to take that away, I think it’s ridiculous.”

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