Suffolk drugs charity sees donations surge following BBC drama

Iceni featured in Five Daughters, which focused on the serial killing of young prostitutes and their battle with addiction

A small drugs charity that was forced to sack almost a third of its staff because of funding cuts has seen a surge in donations, after being featured in a BBC drama this week.

Iceni, which led a campaign to help sex workers off the streets following the serial killing of five young women in Ipswich in 2006, played a major role in the BBC's Five Daughters.

The programme was a three-part drama starring Sarah Lancaster and Ian Hart, that chronicled the lives of the murdered women and their families, and the drug addictions that drove them to prostitution.

Brian Tobin, director and co-founder of Iceni, said he had been "very moved" by the calls, emails and pledges of money totalling £10,000 that he has received from members of the public since the last episode was screened on Wednesday. "I came into the office and I had half a dozen donations via the website. They have kept coming," said Tobin, whose part in the programme was played by Sean Harris, known for his role as Ian Curtis in 24 Hour Party People. "We have had a lot of people give £20, or £50, some have pledged more. We're at £7,500 now, and with the pledges, that will go up to £10,000."

A month ago, the charity, which relies on nine full-time staff, three part-time workers and 22 volunteers, lost a quarter of its £360,000 annual funding due to cutbacks and had to make two full-time staff and a part-time post redundant.

Tobin, who set up the organisation in 1999 in a toilet – removing the sink to make way for a desk – said the donations will help them to treat the 300 people they see annually.

He said many donors had seen relatives or friends die through drug addiction. "There is a consistent number of people who have been affected directly because their loved ones have been affected by drug addiction. A lot had lost people though drug abuse."

Tobin added: "It's been very moving. One unemployed chap said he was going to donate a tenner out of his next giro.

"The money is fantastic and it will all help, but it also gives us a sense that we are valued. The drama picked up on how difficult and isolating drug work can be."

The murders of Gemma Adams, 25, Anneli Alderton, 24, Paula Clennell, 24, Tania Nicol, 19, and Annette Nicholls, 29, by truck driver Steve Wright over six weeks in 2006, re-ignited the national debate over street prostitution and drug abuse.

It prompted agencies in Suffolk to tackle the problem: police arrested kerb crawlers, female officers worked with women on the streets and council drug schemes allowed addicts faster and easier access to the heroin substitute methadone.

Many of around 30 street prostitutes underwent drug treatment and the scheme was widely recognised as a success. Ipswich no longer has a red-light district and many former sex workers are now drug free, although "a handful" remain in treatment, according to Tobin.

"I am in touch with all of them," he said. "I can understand some people's attitude towards addiction – drug abuse causes untold misery. But I've said to people, 'Come and see what those trying to get off drugs are doing here.' "

Contributor

Karen McVeigh

The GuardianTramp

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