The Papa Stour drugs project will close its supported accommodation service at the end of the month following a shortfall in its core funding.
Andy and Sabina Holt-Brook had hoped to expand their service once a year’s funding of £35,000 had come through from Shetland’s Alcohol and Drug Action Team.
They were counting on extra cash coming with each client who came to them – although that failed to materialise.
The couple say the money they were allocated could not cover the cost of providing a 24-hour a day service, which was established eight years ago and has its roots in Christian faith.
Mrs Holt-Brook said there had also been a drop in referrals to the project. She said it would still provide help for those in need through other means, such as a feeding programme for problem drug users.
“The NHS SADAT, as we discovered, was giving us one wage – the same as they are giving the Turning Point [a craft initiative for problem drug users] and the bike project,” she said.
“Those people run from 9-5, and they do a great job, but we’re seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
“We understood that the money was going to be core funding, and when referrals were made to us there would be money from criminal justice and social work that would come with the client, but that was not to be. It’s meant financially we could not continue.”
The planned closure will fly in the face of the project’s aspirations which were made public less than a year ago.
Back then the initiative re-opened after a six month closure brought about by a prior shortfall in funding.
It was the promise of the funding package from SADAT which allowed the project to start up again.
Referrals were taken from February, and new members of staff moved to the isles to help run the centre.
Those staff are now understood to be looking for accommodation, and new employment.
Alcohol and drug development officer Karen Smith said she hoped Papa Stour could still be used for future initiatives which could help people recovering from drug or alcohol problems.
“It’s sad we’ve lost Papa Stour as part of our overall alcohol and drug service we have in Shetland. We’re looking at other opportunities, such as day-time activities, as opposed to a residential place.”
The council’s executive director for education and social care, Hazel Sutherland, said Papa Stour had never been offered anything extra above £35,000. She said the service had been a valuable resource for vulnerable people.
“We’ve been talking to Papa Stour for a long time. If they have chosen not to operate it’s vexing in a way because it’s a valuable resource. But they are a voluntary sector provider and you can’t force them to stay open.”
The news came as a shock to reformed drug user Peter Jamieson, who has previously spoken out on how the service turned his life around.
“Papa Stour changed my life. I went there in 2006 with alcohol and drug issues. I was really unwell at the time,” he said. “I had liver damage and hepatitis C from my drug use over the years.
“I had tried various things over the years and various programmes in Aberdeen, but nothing really worked. Papa Stour offered me something I couldn’t get anywhere else, through coming to faith in Jesus. That, to me, was the turning point in my life.
“I do think it’s a terrible shame such a resource – in an island where there are so many addiction problems – can be allowed to close.”