Support in the Community: Funding boost for charity’s vital work

Former heroin addict Steven Ellis.

Former heroin addict Steven Ellis.

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A charity that helps troubled characters turn their lives round has moved a step nearer a multi-million pound funding boost.

Developing Initiatives for Support in the Community (Disc) has been awarded a grant of £160,000 by the Big Lottery Fund.

It will use that money to put together a business plan for schemes that could eventually receive as much as £10m from the same fund.

Operating in partnership with agencies such as the police and the prison service, Disc helps people with problems like homelessness, mental illness and addiction.

It carries out work across the north of England but has a strong presence in West Yorkshire, with three bases in Leeds alone.

Disc’s chief exexcutive, Mark Weeding, said: “This grant will enable our partnership to help many of those people whose complex and multiple problems prevent them from living the fulfilled and normal lives that they dream about.

“West Yorkshire is a fascinating mix of rural and metropolitan communities from many different cultures.

“This isn’t a simple problem but if we can prevent people falling through the net of services we will have a major impact on both their lives and the communities in which they live.”

One person who has been helped by Disc is 37-year-old former heroin addict Steven Ellis, from Hunslet, Leeds.

He spent 14 years in and out of prison before kicking drugs and developing a passion for art.

Steven took a course at Leeds College of Art and now puts his creative talents to good use by running weekly sessions at Disc.

He said: “It’s hard for a man with bravado to walk into an agency or service provider and say ‘I haven’t the strength to maintain my abstinence on my own and I need your help’.

“When I went to Disc I was offered the mental and emotional support I needed. Trying to rebuild your life from scratch is quite a challenge while recovering from an addiction.

“I help other people now. I’ve become a mentor and run an art recovery group and create strong links with the prison service so when people are released they are not lost in a shot.”

Disc estimates there are as many as 3,000 people in West Yorkshire with complex needs relating to housing, substance misuse, mental health and offending. Around 45 per cent are said to have “ineffective” contact with support services.

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