Norwood in talks to rescue Drugsline

By Anna Sheinman, January 10, 2013

Drugsline, the UK’s only Jewish substance abuse charity, which closed its doors in September, is to be resurrected by leading Jewish charity Norwood.

The family charity is currently in talks with former Drugsline executive director Rabbi Aryeh Sufrin as to how to re-open services. Elaine Kerr, chief executive of Norwood, said: “We have not made the final decision, but discussions are a long way along.”

If negotiations are successful, not only would Drugsline reopen in some format, but Norwood wants to expand the work that it did, which included drugs education in schools for tens of thousands of children every year.

“We’re confident we can bring something back,” Ms Kerr said. Norwood bought the Drugsline name for a nominal amount last month after it went into liquidation.

Ms Kerr said Norwood was particularly interested in the work Drugsline did in schools and have developed a pilot scheme with Rabbi Sufrin, which is set to open “in the near future”.

When Drugsline closed in September due to lack of funding, members of Norwood were “horrified”, Ms Kerr said. “Norwood was concerned about the closure of Drugsline, primarily because we are the largest provider of support to vulnerable children and families in the community, and we understand and see the destructive impact of substance misuse in families”. Since Norwood already worked in schools and with children and families, there was considerable synergy between the two organisations.

“We work in the same schools and a lot of the back office is already covered, so we think we can expand the Drugsline service,” she said.

Operating Drugsline is not expected to have a negative impact on Norwood’s finances as offering a substance misuse service will allow them to access many new income streams.

Before its closure, Drugsline was the only charity working directly with drug and alcohol addicts in the Jewish community.

Based in Ilford, Essex, the Chabad-inspired charity ran a schools education and outreach programme which in its final year ran workshops for over 28,000 students at more than 90 schools and colleges.

It also maintained two drop-in centres and a crisis and support hotline for drug abusers and their friends and families, and played a key role in getting addicts into rehabilitation.

When it closed, Rabbi Sufrin, who had been the charity’s executive director for 23 years and was awarded an MBE in 2009 for his work, said he was “devastated. There are people walking around today who would not be here if it were not for Drugsline”.

Drugsline’s liquidator, Asher Miller, said that the sale of the name was a “good result” and that he personally hoped that provision of its services would continue.

Last updated: 3:16pm, January 10 2013