Alcoholic campaigns for service that saved him

Liz Bates, who runs the hostel in-reach service and David Robertson who has used the service. Norcas is a charity helping people with addictions to drugs, alcohol and gambling.
Liz Bates, who runs the hostel in-reach service and David Robertson who has used the service. Norcas is a charity helping people with addictions to drugs, alcohol and gambling.
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DAVID Robertson has no doubts on the value of the Norcas in-reach scheme for addicts – he says it saved his life.

Born in Thetford, he says he has only had about two sober years in the past 24. His alcoholism has cost his driving licence, every job and his family. He had counselling for 15 years but says Norcas in-reach worker Liz Bates finally broke the spiral. Now he is part of a campaign launched on Monday to save her job because it has lost local government funding and the Norwich addiction charity can only fund her until April.

“She saved my life, so I’m going to help her,” he said. “If I had continued on the same line I would either be dead or ‘dead while alive’.”

He and Liz say what makes in-reach different is that she goes into the hostels she works with, six in Bury St Edmunds and four in Haverhill.

She said: “Rather than expecting someone with a chaotic life to come into an office, I go in to them. I’ll knock on someone’s door 15 times if I have to.”

The aim is to stop them losing their hostel place and, eventually, get them into a flat of their own.

She has had 75 clients in two years. Norcas says the service costs about £35,000 a year, but Liz points out: “Someone going into hospital for detox costs about £300 a day and it’s about £1,000 a day to keep someone in prison. If the funding ends, that would be it. There are no similar services in Bury.”

The campaign is also supported by Suffolk Police and health experts.

Assistant Chief Constable Paul Marshall said: “This not only benefits the people using the hostel but it also lifts the burden on the police. Our resources are not repeatedly being used to deal with the same people.”

NHS alcohol and liver disease nurse specialist Louise Bland said: “The loss of a service such as this will leave clients in a vulnerable position that may impact other agencies.”

If you can help, contact Norcas head of fundraising, Matt Wilson on 01603 227053 or m.wilson@norcas.org.uk.