Substance abuse centre axed

‘We’ll be turning young people away with nowhere to go...’

A SUBSTANCE abuse service that targets vulnerable young people is to be closed.

The decision has been taken by NHS Newham and Newham Council.

The Spark centre, in Romford Road, Stratford, which provides education and treatment for young people aged between five and 25 who are vulnerable to substance misuse, will be closed by the end of the year.

Bilal Lockhart, joint manager at Spark, said: “It was quite a surprise when we were told that we were to be closed down. We are turning young people away and we don’t know where to tell them to go.”

The service, which relies on Newham Council and Newham PCT for the majority of its funding, is currently treating 30 people who have been referred by youth offending services, social services, schools and parents.

Young people attending the centre include those suffering from mental health problems and those who have been involved in criminal activity.

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The project provides motivational and educational sessions designed to lead the youths away from substance abuse and back into education and the workplace.

Bilal, who will be made jobless along with his five full-time colleagues, said: “Our treatments achieve results quite quickly.

“They can be effective within a few weeks or a few months.

“It is important to tackle substance abuse at an early age where it can be done much more quickly and at less cost to the tax payer than at a later age.”

A joint statement by Newham PCT and Newham Council said: “The budget we receive to provide these services from central government has been reduced. This means that both the council and NHS Newham have had to look at the services we commission and evaluate our communities’ needs and also how we can give local people best value for money.

“We are committed to ensuring that services are available for local people and that those currently accessing services will receive ongoing support.

“There will be around eight service users who will continue to need support.

“They will receive clinical care from the Specialist Substance Misuse Service already provided by East London NHS Foundation Trust, and social care from specialists in Newham Council’s Families and Children’s Service.

“In future, young people who need this kind of support will be referred to the council’s specialist team, who will arrange their clinical and social care.”