Drugs charity may sue over funding

12th August 2005 at 01:00
A drugs charity that specialises in preventing abuse among vulnerable young people intends taking legal action against the Welsh Assembly following a drastic cut in its funding.

Youthlink Wales works directly with around 6,000 14 to 25-year-olds every year. It uses peer mentors to get its message across to others excluded from school or who have dropped out of the mainstream.

It used to receive pound;120,000 annually from the Welsh Assembly. This was a discretionary grant made available under the Health Act. But last December the charity was told this would cease. Instead, it was offered pound;30,000 a year from the Assembly's National Voluntary Youth Organisation grant.

Youthlink, launched in 1985, intends taking legal action because it claims the Assembly is failing in its obligation to provide the disadvantaged young with drugs education.

Andrew Phillips, Youthlink spokesman, said: "We have no legal contract with the Assembly for our work to continue but we feel that, if it doesn't, there will be a huge loss of valuable grass-roots knowledge.

"We were set up as a preventative agency. Before that, everything in Wales was treatment-based. We developed it so young people could talk about drug abuse and look at the dangers.

"We were dealing with some of the most difficult people around and we reached an awful lot of them for a small amount of money. It's shocking this has been taken away."

Mr Phillips said Youthlink was optimistic about getting legal aid. "We would like a judicial review," he said. "The Assembly says it gives money for education through schools, but we have always existed for those who don't turn up to school."

The charity also offers guidance on sexually-transmitted diseases, bullying and domestic abuse, and provides accredited training for youth workers. It says its work conforms closely to principles established by the Assembly.

An Assembly government spokeswoman said: "Youthlink was told in June 2004 that the grant scheme was being reviewed.

"The Assembly ended direct funding of a few voluntary organisations following changes in the way its substance misuse policy is delivered.

"It now distributes pound;9 million a year at local level through community safety partnerships. Voluntary organisations providing residential treatment continue to receive support."

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