23 November 2003

'Poverty' Chief takes up top job at Drugscope

Martin Barnes, currently Director of the Child Poverty Action Group, takes up the post of Chief Executive of Drugscope in the New Year. The move came following Roger Howard's move from Drugscope to Crime Concern.

Barnes has been Director of CPAG for 11 years. In this time, CPAG had expanded with a threefold increase in expenditure from the late 90's to the present. However, his departure from CPAG coincides with a period of internal disgareement at CPAG. The charity made the news as staff walked out on strike following management decisions to reduce terms and conditions of employment for new starters. While there has been no indication that the move to Drugscope was related to these internal issues at CPAG, it is to be hoped that Barnes' arrival at Drugscope will only be a boost to staff morale, rather than a portent of less good things.

CPAG has described itself as a "critical friend to Government" and traditionally CPAG has occupied a close position to Government in briefing on how economic strategy is liable to impact on poverty. It would be fair to describe CPAG as a strong campaigning body with good access to Government. They have however, had minimal contact with drugs.

It will be interesting to see if Barnes' arrival at Drugscope heralds a shift of focus. Over the past few years, Drugscope has embraced the Government's "drugs and crime" agenda; it is to be hoped that Martin Barnes will bring a shift instead to the "drugs and social exclusion" nexus instead. A focus that lifts people and communities out of poverty, and an agenda that looks at opportunity and involvement rather than punishment would be welcome.

The drugs field urgently needs strong,confident and informed voices to lobby and campaign for urgently needed reforms to policy and law. We hope that Martin Barnes can provide this voice and remains a critical friend of government.


Water, water everywhere and not a drop to fix:

Confusion has become apparent with the changes to the Paraphernalia Legislation initiated this summer. The changes to the legislation were discussed below.

At the time we highlighted these concerns and it has become obvious that these were well-founded.

A big concern was the lack of additional budget to fund these additional costs. The Government has effectively acknowledged the health benefits of revising the paraphernalia laws, but has not matched these with funds to purchase the resources. As a consequence, around the UK, exchanges are restricting what they give out because of the funding issue. These concerns were highlighted by Druglink and have been extensively discussed by UKHRA.

The second concern relates to the ongoing situation with water for injection/sterile water. The phrasing of the amendment, restricting water distribution to "water for injection" within the terms of the Medicine Act has resulted in a number of services feeling hampered in their distribution of water. This has been an especially big problem in areas where the local exchange is not linked to the NHS and so finds it more difficult to secure prescribed 'Water for Injection.'

Exchange Supplies have been working extensively to circumvent this problem, and are producing a guidance sheet to outline the current position.

Similarly, the arbitary stupidity of the decision to make citric lawful for distribution, but not ascorbic is just daft.

The other area of concern is a lack of clarity within the DLEU about what the law actually means. When asked to clarify what "utensils for the preparation" meant, the DLEU replied to us that they were not in a position to define this as it would be for a court to decide. They did however say that the terms was open and not resctricted to the examples cited.

However, others who have contacted the DLEU have received different answers, being told that some items were forbidden. Such lack of clarity in the DLEU, combined with the inadequate drafting of the legislation need to be addressed and further revision is now essential.