A DRUGS charity is to benefit from a fund launched to help counteract the loss of Northumberland’s biggest private sector employer.
Blyth-based Escape Family Support has been awarded £75,000 by Rio Tinto Alcan, whose Lynemouth aluminium smelter is closing with the loss of more than 500 jobs.
The money is from a legacy fund established by the company to benefit the local communities most affected by the plant’s closure.
It will be used by Escape to help refurbish the former National Union of Mineworkers’ Hall in Ashington, which the charity bought recently to convert into a recovery and social enterprise centre. The aim is to use the revamped building as a base for several new social enterprise businesses, including a catering operation, a training provider offering educational courses and a health and well-being company.
It is also hoped to use the centre to provide former drug and alcohol users with training and volunteering experience, to help them find jobs or set up their own small businesses.
Alcan has invited local groups and organisations to bid for cash to create a lasting legacy and support the towns and villages closest to the doomed smelter. The fund is aimed at helping communities such as Lynemouth, Ellington, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Linton, Cresswell and Ashington to deliver projects which promote social well-being and prosperity.
Escape was set up in 1995 by Blyth mother Janet Murphy, after her teenage daughter Jennie died from a drugs cocktail. It has achieved national recognition and praise, and now deals with about 700 people a year who are affected by drug, alcohol or solvent abuse. John Mc Cabe, Rio Tinto Alcan’s regional economic development director, said: “Escape Family Support has been operating for more than 17 years, and provides a vital service to individuals and families coping with complex and often sensitive issues, such as alcohol and drug addiction, domestic violence, child protection, debt, unemployment and mental health.”
Janet Murphy said: “We are very grateful to Rio Tinto Alcan. £75,000 is a tremendous step along the way to achieving our aims. There is still much to do, and many thousands more to raise, but this is a major boost for us, and we are determined to establish a recovery centre and create more jobs and social enterprises in the industrial heart of Northumberland.”
Alison Morrell, Escape’s education, training and employment coordinator, said: “We hope to be operating from the Ashington centre by April, and we are at the application stage for further funding. We would love our service users to develop their skills with our support, to move on with their lives and possibly set up their own social enterprises.”