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UK: Confiscated Drugs Cash To Fund Jobs For Addicts

Media Awareness Project25 May 2000 The Independent, The (UK)

UK: Confiscated Drugs Cash To Fund Jobs For Addicts

Author: Ian Burrell, Home Affairs Correspondent

CONFISCATED DRUGS CASH TO FUND JOBS FOR ADDICTSSmall-time drug dealers are to be found jobs under a controversial government scheme being funded out of the confiscated assets of drug barons.

The “street-level” dealers are among heroin and cocaine users who are to be helped to break the cycle of addiction and crime by redistributing the profits of the drugs trade.

Keith Hellawell, the anti-drugs co-ordinator, said yesterday that the programme would give employment to 150 drug addicts for two years.

Mr Hellawell admitted that many of those being helped would be small-time dealers but said it was a “nice irony” that their reintegration into society was being funded by major players in the drug trade.

“Most of the people we are talking about are involved in criminality because they don’t have any money,” Mr Hellawell said. “A large proportion will be user-dealers but they are only doing that to pay off debts or support their own habits.”

The A3500,000 scheme will be paid for out of the seized assets fund, which is worth A35m this year, made up of wealth confiscated from drug suppliers.

Mr Hellawell, who has powers to distribute the money to projects dedicated to reducing demand for illicit drugs, said big-time dealers were unlikely to find themselves on the job scheme. “The dealers who have assets worth seizing are rarely addicted themselves. The people we are looking at helping here are unlikely to have any assets worth anything,” he said.

The drugs “czar” said the job scheme – which will only be available to people who have graduated from drug treatment programmes – would have long-term benefits in reducing levels of crime.

He said: “Some addicts have never worked in their lives. If we cannot get them into stable employment and accommodation, then the likelihood is that they will be back addicted and committing crime. It’s important that we provide stability to get people back as productive members of the community.”

Mr Hellawell will today distribute A3185,000 from the fund to projects in Wales designed to reduce drug use, particularly by young people and women.

One of these schemes will pay for addicts to be given counselling in village pharmacies in rural Dyfed-Powys. And A3500,000 will fund projects to divert drug users into sport.

A further A3500,000 will be used to recruit 600 new drug workers to remedy the severe shortage of treatment facilities for drug users in Britain.

Later this summer, Mr Hellawell will be flying to Eastern Europe to visit prospective member states of the European Union and advise them on their drug-fighting strategies.

He said that he would be paying special attention to banking systems and border controls in the applicant nations. “These countries are potentially going to be our outer borders,” he said.

MAP posted-by: Derek Rea