Three concerned mothers who have found their school run littered with discarded needles are calling on a new approach to tackling the problem in Peterborough.
Fiona Henry, Kirsty Hadfield and Bernadette Gibbons have started a new city council petition after the problem became so bad Fiona said she cannot let her three children explore public grass areas.
Fiona (30) said: “We all live in East ward. Since Christmas we’ve noticed so many more needles, many on the school run. It got to the point where we are going ‘it’s almost every day’.
“Once we started researching what the council have been doing about it we were shocked to see it had not been discussed at a Full Council since June 2011.
“We need to do something to bring it back to Full Council.”
The parents, who take their children to Lime Academy Abbotsmede and Bishop Creighton Academy, have set up Facebook and Twitter accounts called ‘Needless Needle’ which has seen many people send in their photos of discarded needles across Peterborough, including one on a bus.
Some of their research into the issue came through looking at recent Peterborough Telegraph articles which have highlighted needles and other drug paraphernalia being found at Broadway Cemetery, Central Park and Railworld.
Fiona said: “A lot of the needles have been on paths and on the roads. We saw them on Saxon Road and Star Road and heading into town. They are in the middle of the road or middle of the path.
“Last week in Westwood it was right in the middle of the path and a six-year-old had kicked it on the way to school.
“The stories that we have heard are so scary.
“Kids want to run on the grass and explore it but we can’t let them do it because we have seen so many needles.”
Fiona said she had also in the past heard of two children who had picked up needles in Central Park and were scratched by them, leaving to weeks of waiting for an HIV test.
The parents’ petition, which is on the council’s website, needs 500 signatures to trigger a Full Council debate.
It calls on the council to “discuss and implement better, safer practices to reduce the amount of discarded, used needles and other drug paraphernalia across the city.
“We want to find a solution which works for all, including those who are battling with addiction, in order to make Peterborough’s streets safer for everyone.”
Explaining where changes will need to be made, Fiona added: “There is a needle exchange programme in place but somewhere along the line that’s failing. We need to find out why it’s failing and what can be put in by the council so people can dispose of needles safely.
“It’s been four weeks since we set up and we are getting so many stories. There are people finding pictures and sending them to us.
“The council have been responding when needles are found but we want something put in place to stop them getting there in the first place. It’s got to work for the user as well.”
The petition, which went live today (Monday, February 19), can be found on the council’s website.
A spokesman for Peterborough City Council said: “Like many cities across the country, used needles are an issue in some parts of Peterborough and we are actively working with our partners to tackle this.
“We recently worked with the Community Payback team to clean up a number of needles from the river bank in the city centre.
“The safety of the public is our utmost priority and we regularly monitor areas to ensure they are clean and free of drugs paraphernalia.
“We would advise anyone not to touch needles or drug materials if found and to immediately report it to us via the MyPeterborough smartphone app or call 01733 747474.”
Needle Exchange Schemes supply needles and syringes for people who inject drugs. In addition, they often supply other equipment used to prepare and take drugs (for example, filters, mixing containers and sterile water).
The majority of needle and syringe programmes are run by pharmacies and drug services. They may operate from fixed, mobile or outreach sites.
According to the council they are vitally important to reducing the transmission of blood-borne viruses such as Hepatitis C and HIV along with other infections caused by sharing injecting equipment. In turn, this will help to reduce the prevalence of these in the wider population.
In Peterborough the Needle Exchange Schemes is provided and overseen by ASPIRE. It sub-contracts to 16 community pharmacies and provides the service itself in three locations: Bridge Street in the city centre, the Bretton Centre and the Herlington Centre in Orton.
The key principles or the Peterborough Needle Exchange Service are:
. To ensure that needle exchange provision is in place for people who inject to have access to needle and syringe equipment
. To ensure that people who inject have access to safe disposal facilities such as drop boxes and sharps bins thereby helping to reduce drug-related litter
. To ensure that special consideration is given to a number of specific groups of injecting drug users. These groups include: homeless people, who are more likely to share needle and syringe equipment on a regular basis than others who inject drugs; women, whose drug use may be linked to specific behaviours and lifestyles that put them at an increased risk of HIV and hepatitis infections; club drug injectors; MSM (men who have sex with men) engaged in Chemsex (the injecting of drugs in a sexual context); users of anabolic steroids and other performance-and-image-enhancing drugs; the prison population, which contains a higher than average number of injecting drug users.