ON THE GROUND: Kaleidoscope

Scheme - Kaleidoscope

Funding - £1million annually: mixture of funding from health authorities, local authorities and charitable grants

Objectives - To provide hospitality and support to the most marginalised societal groups in south London

"We're different from other projects with drop-in centres for drug users in that we have an open-access policy,

says the Reverend Martin Blakeborough, director of the Kaleidoscope project.

"I think we're the only one left in the country offering open access to chaotic drug users."

"Chaotic drug users

are people who will take any drug they can acquire, and who often have serious illnesses, such as malnutrition or HIV. Of the 400 drug users who come to Kaleidoscope for methadone and syringes on a regular basis, there are perhaps 50 chaotic users.

Following the Wintercomfort case two years ago, in which two charity workers were sent to prison for knowingly allowing heroin and cannabis to be sold on their project's premises, other drug support agencies withdrew their services for chaotic drug users, but Kaleidoscope refused to submit.

"We don't tolerate dealing. But we recognise that some people will try it, and we're experienced in ascertaining when this is happening,

says Blakeborough. "But inviting chaotic drug users in does make us vulnerable."

Doesn't it also make Kaleidoscope workers open to prosecution? "Probably, yes,

says Blakeborough. "But we won't budge on this issue. My passionate belief is that you've got to provide places where a community of drug users can support one another. And it's amazingly successful in building social networks, which makes these people less likely to commit crime."

It is not just its enlightened treatment of drug users that makes Kaleidoscope different.

It also runs a diverse array of projects for the most vilified people in society. These include a drug-dependency unit for 400 drug users; a learning and education centre for senior citizens, churchgoers and young people excluded from school; a hostel for asylum seekers; another for people with mental health problems; and a day centre for senior citizens.

There are also plans for a brand new building providing IT training, and a detoxification unit for later this year.

Kingston upon Thames, where the project is based, has one of the highest numbers of drug users per head, and yet one of the lowest crime rates in London, claims Blakeborough.

But his goals are more fundamental than cutting crime. "Some people give up drugs,

he says. "Many of them are no longer sleeping rough, and some of them aren't dead."

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