Solvent abuse charity still finding its way

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THE chairman of a Leven based solvent abuse awareness charity has warned it’s facing its most difficult year to date.

The Lee O’Brien Solvent Trust (LOST) was set up in 2002 by John O’Brien following the death of his 16-year-old son Lee through solvent abuse.

But 10 years on, after campaigning for changes in legislation and carrying out an education awareness programme, LOST has missed out on a significant amount of its funding from Fife Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP).

It has, however, secured some funding, that will see it able to employ a part-time staff member, providing it can identify match funding, and has also secured money from the Postcode Trust for equipment and recruited a number of volunteers.

Speaking after LOST’s annual general meeting, Mr O’Brien told the Mail the drop in funding income from Fife ADP could still see the charity forced to close at some point over the next 12 months.

He continued: “We have looked at other funders but this is a long, drawn-out process and with a large number of other charities applying we are looked at in order of preference.

“This puts LOST at a disadvantage and we are now at critical point that we may well close this year.

“It’s good to see other agencies progressing but at the other end of the scale – education – we are declining fast.

“For the past 10 years our team of volunteers has delivered solvent abuse education to all high schools and colleges across Fife, spreading the word and raising awareness to secure future generations so parents don’t come across the same tragedy as myself.

“Our outreach activities have proven solvent abuse has increased in the community of Fife not only with youngsters but adults.“

However, Mr O’Brien insisted it was not all doom and gloom as he reflected on a decade of work carried out by the charity.

Looking back he cited the change in legislation preventing underage children being able to buy lighter fuel, which LOST successfully campaigned for, as a particular highlight.

And in 2003, thanks to that campaign, Mr O’Brien was invited to a special reception at Buckingham Palace, held to ‘mark the contribution pioneers have made to the life of the nation’.

In 2006, in another first, LOST hosted a conference in Methil and invited delegates from all over the UK to attend in a bid to raise the profile of solvent abuse across the country.

The following year the charity set up a helpline in Fife, operating 24 hours of the day, after securing funds from Fife ADP.

Its work then reached out nationwide in 2008 after setting up networks with organisations across the UK, and in 2009 it secured funding from the Coalfields Regeneration Trust to open up office premises in Leven High Street, taking the organisation to a more professional level.

Mr O’Brien added: “We need to identify other funding streams to enable us to sustain the service and also the good work we have delivered in the past 10 years.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank my board of trustees and volunteers for their time and putting up with the pressures of being a volunteer working in a demanding environment.”