DDN Magazine October 2023 DDN_October_2023 | Page 20



Kaleidoscope established itself in Wales in 2003 . Martin Blakebrough looks back on 20 years of innovation in substance use services


ounded in 1968 by my father Rev Eric Blakebrough , Kaleidoscope ’ s name comes from the idea of making beautiful patterns from a diversity of people . Kaleidoscope grew from the acorn of a nightclub in the late 1960s that was used as a vehicle for community outreach – the club responded to the needs of those who came through its doors , including around drug use and , in particular , heroin . From the outset Kaleidoscope ’ s focus was very much about harm reduction and it pioneered needle and syringe exchange and substitute medication .
Kaleidoscope ’ s innovative approaches led Newport City Council , the police and the health board to ask Kaleidoscope to set up a service in the city , supporting residents throughout Gwent . The offer was made with no buildings or staff , and with the key stipulation that Kaleidoscope would treat 100 people in the first three months .
When Newport made their proposal , it was clear that Kaleidoscope could not simply be a London organisation providing services in Wales – there was a need to become Welsh . So in 2003 , following a five-year apprenticeship with my sister Adele , who ran the organisation after our father ’ s retirement in 1993 – I relocated the head office to Wales .
THE TEAM The first tasks , documented by the BBC , were recruiting a team to establish services in Newport and securing a building . Kaleidoscope set up the services in St Pauls Church , Newport – the congregation and church were incredibly supportive of our work . Some of those initially recruited are still with Kaleidoscope today , including Veronica Snowball , Paul Perry and Sian Chicken .
The need for our help was clear and many who came through our doors had waited for years to get into treatment . What was particularly special was how grateful people were – it was amazing how service users were towards staff , with real patience shown to us .
The support of other local agencies helping people with drug and alcohol issues was great including from Drugaid ( now Barod ) and GAP ( Gwent Alcohol Project ). The collaborative approach had been missing in England , and it was inspiring to see how agencies worked together . This partnership approach led to us establishing Drug and Alcohol Charities Wales ( DACW ), now renamed Developing a Caring Wales . Critically , services were no longer in competition with one another .
SUBSTITUTE DRUGS Kaleidoscope soon ran out of space and after a few years of working with King ’ s Church in Newport we took over their building , an old primary school called Powells Place . This building
Kaleidoscope ’ s name comes from the idea of making beautiful patterns from a diversity of people .
is still the largest dispenser of substitute drugs in Wales . Need then drew us to expand into the Salvation Army Citadel in Tredegar . Initially there was real community hostility , but once they understood what we were doing – notably helping people in their own families and communities – we found we ’ d moved to an amazingly supportive environment .
There were difficult days . We initially had a problematic relationship with the statutory NHS service but through partnership working the relationship has gone from strength to strength . Then ,