Please Note:

Forward Leeds has taken over from Barca’s Drug and Alcohol treatment programmes. Please visit the Forward Leeds website for more information. ( Facebook (ForwardLeeds) and Twitter (@ForwardLeeds)

This specialist drug and alcohol service educates young people under the age of 18 about substance use and gives them a chance to address any identified issues.

Platform is a partnership project between Barca-Leeds and the charity DISC (Developing Initiatives, Supporting Communities). It includes a Tier 2 Service (formerly known as the Harm Reduction service) based in the West of Leeds.

Platform is the first project of its kind to be recognised by OFSTED as an example of good practice. For more information and to read the report please click on the below link:

Why Platform?

We support young people with identified drug or alcohol misuse in making informed decisions and divert them from misusing substances as adults. This improves the welfare and health of individuals and cuts the burden on families, the community and the economy.

How it works

Young people are more likely to address their drug and alcohol abuse problems if they have accurate information about the impact on their own lives, on other people, and on their community. Specialist education, with professional workers, is the most powerful way to do this. As well as supporting them in overcoming any existing problems, our work also prevents them using in the future by helping them take responsibility for their choices.

What we do

Our work comprises two main courses of action.


Young people with existing misuse problems come into the service, on a voluntary basis, from various sources. After a full assessment, they then receive intensive one-to-one professional support. This tailor-made programme covers whatever is relevant to that individual, from family issues and triggers to coping mechanisms and reduction plans. If necessary, we can offer them specialist medical support or refer them to other agencies.


Platform also helps prevent young people from starting to misuse drugs and alcohol, or works to stop this from escalating. We run low-level intervention outreach sessions in schools, youth groups and other environments to educate young people about harm reduction. Some of these happen via our peer-education programme.

Our multi-disciplinary team works with other partners on a wide range of interventions, including Leeds Youth Offending Service (for young people involved in the criminal justice service), CAMHS (the services of a seconded specialist mental health practitioner) and Leeds NHS (the services of a nurse and a GP).

Barca-Leeds says

There is so much poor information out there, among parents as well as among young people. We are passionate about making sure that young people are well informed. We’ll sometimes find ourselves working with a young person who feels alienated from their family. Everyone’s angry, upset and confused. We can do the intensive intervention work if necessary. But sometimes all we need to do is mediate, say between a mother and son who can’t even bear to be in the same room. So when you then get a message from the mum saying that her son has made her a cup of tea or given her a kiss for the first time in years, when you see families coming back together like that, building sustainable relationships to support a young person as they address their drug or alcohol problem, that’s when our work is so rewarding. Phil Edwards

Facts and figures

* Between April 2010 (project start) and February 2011, Platform worked with 233 young people around their individual substance needs.

* Of these, 85.7% have completed treatment and left the service in an agreed and planned way.

How we could grow the service

There are so many more elements of Platform’s work that we could explore if we had the funds to do so. We could really benefit from having specialist family workers who could work more intensively with a young person’s whole family, in line with government policy. Another issue is that when the young people we work with turn 18, if they still need support, they have to move into the adult services. It can be a frightening experience for a young person who is a heavy cannabis user to be treated in a service that deals mostly with long-term heroin users. It would be hugely helpful to have a bolt-on worker to manage that transition, to work with 16-25 year olds.

Max’s story

When serious health problems began to affect several members of his family, Max, a bright and stable 18-year-old, struggled to cope. He began to rebel; his behaviour suffered, as did his education. Not knowing where or whom to turn to, Max began to take a range of legally prescribed and illegal drugs. A counsellor and mental health nurse from Platform worked with Max and his family to help them find ways to get through this very difficult time. The tailor-made education work they did with Max helped him to make sure he was safe, and he reduced his drug use. The family’s health issues haven’t gone away, but Max, who is now in work, has found other ways to cope.

Jennifer’s story

Jennifer panicked when she found cannabis in her son’s bedroom. She worried that he would drop out of school and move onto harder drugs. We met Jennifer and talked about her concerns. We gave her the latest information about drugs and young people, and offered her strategies about how she could talk to her son about drugs. We also met her son and heard his side of the story. After several weeks of mediation work with the whole family and on-going support, communication between them improved enormously. Jennifer’s son was able to make some decisions about his behaviour, based on the educational input we offered, and Jennifer felt more confident about supporting him.


Government Drugs Strategy 2010

National Treatment Agency NTA
The NHS special health authority that aims to help people overcome their addiction and regain their lives.

21 Years of Community Based Action
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