Grieving mum warns of ‘lost generation’ as drug service ‘fails’ Sunderland young people

Cath and Malcolm Wareing and their daughter Kristy treasure a photograph of David Pace, their son and Kristy's brother.
Cath and Malcolm Wareing and their daughter Kristy treasure a photograph of David Pace, their son and Kristy's brother.
Have your say

A GRIEVING mum today warned that “a generation of young people is being lost” unless more is done to improve drink and drug treatment programmes in Sunderland.

A council chief has admitted some services are “underperforming” in the wake of an independent report which has raised concerns over the treatment of vulnerable users and a backlog of cases.

Sunderland City Council reorganised drug and alcohol treatment services in 2013, partly in a bid to reduce costs.

Services are now commissioned by the council but delivered by three outside providers, the charity Turning Point, which assesses cases and refers people to other organisations for treatment, Lifeline and Counted 4.

Now Cath Wareing, whose son David Pace died aged 26 last April following a heroin overdose, hopes that the report will help change the way drug users can access help.

David, who was dad to Josie, three, had intermittently taken Valium, cocaine and crack cocaine, but although his family insist he wasn’t an addict, they believe he and many other people in the situation he found himself in need support quicker to stop their lives being wasted.

Cath, 48, of Donwell, in Washington, who has set up the Pacey’s Plea Facebook group to help other drug users, said: “Young people don’t know where to turn. David had an appointment three days before he died and if he had been offered the chance to go into rehab, he would still be here today.

“I’ve got people approaching me through private messages on Facebook asking for help. When I was trying to get help for David, I was pushed from pillar to post, so no wonder these young people don’t know what to do. We are losing a generation of young people here.

Cath, also mum to Kristy, added “People portray them all as bad kids but there are a lot of underlying issues, and the help should be there for them.”

John Kelly, portfolio holder for public health at Sunderland City Council, said: “Drug and alcohol treatment services in Sunderland are provided by three different organisations.

“This model came into place in August 2013. We recognise some elements of these services are underperforming and are continuing to work with providers, service users, families and carers to address these issues and make sure people can access effective services quickly.

“While any drug or alcohol-related death is a tragedy which we must learn from, there is no evidence to suggest any major increase across Sunderland since the new model was introduced.

“However, Sunderland has historically had higher rates of drug and alcohol-related ill-health and continues to face significant challenges in tackling this issue.

“Work to improve services is continuing despite the severe financial constraints that this and all councils are continuing to face.

“Following a review last summer, we are looking to develop a revised model on treatment which will be considered by the city council in the near future.”

Turning Point said it had not received any complaints over safeguarding.

Jay Stewart, director of operations at Turning Point, said: “In 2013, Turning Point was one of three organisations awarded the contract for substance misuse services in Sunderland.

“Our role within the Sunderland Recovery Partnership is to be the first point of contact for people seeking support and to navigate them to the right service.

“As such, we are reliant on the other providers to work with clients to deliver appropriate treatment options. We are not responsible for providing any clinical, pharmacological or registered activity, including prescribing, as this is delivered by other organisations.

“Vast improvements have been made to the service since this report was written last year, including the reduction of waiting times to no more than five days, and despite a 70 per cent increase in the treatment population, both alcohol and non-opiate treatment completion targets are due to be exceeded. We are disappointed that an internal report has been put into the public domain, which does not reflect the contribution that all providers made.

“The commissioning of a partnership approach in Sunderland did signify a new method of delivery. We acknowledge that there were some delays when we first took over the service due, in part, to the previous provider ceasing to take new referrals. This meant we had a significantly high caseload on day one to properly assess and support. Also, staff that were expected to TUPE to us from the previous provider did not do so at short notice. We therefore tried to fill vacancies as quickly as possible within the very tight transfer timetable, while maintaining the high calibre of recruits we expect and trying to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

“We are confident that the support we are providing is meeting local need and continues to achieve improved outcomes for the local community.”

Lifeline and Counted 4 were unavailable for comment.