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.


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