Brand steps in to save charity

CONTROVERSIAL comedian Russell Brand has stepped in to help the charity which saved him from drug addiction after learning it faced a cash crisis.

Laurence Cawley

A CONTROVERSIAL comedian who was saved from addiction by a Suffolk charity has now stepped in to save the organisation.

Russell Brand, who was at the centre of the “Sachsgate” affair, pledged to help after learning that drug and alcohol support charity Focus 12, which is based in Bury St Edmunds, was facing closure after its Government grant was cut.

The 33-year-old actor and comic, who is a patron of the charity after it helped him kick hard drugs, has offered an undisclosed sum of money and pledged to help with fundraising.

“Russell has certainly saved us from having to close,” said Chip Somers, chief executive of Focus12, last night.

“He has certainly given us some breathing space to try and locate some future funding and with the prospect of raising money for the next year we hope we are safe.”

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It is understood Brand will lead two fundraising events for Focus 12 during the next financial year. Similar events in the past have raised �50,000 a throw for the charity which, said Mr Somers, would go a considerable way to helping it meet its �1,000 a day running costs.

Despite seeing a 40% increase in clients in the past year, Mr Somers said he feared Focus 12 might have to close after learning it would lose almost a third of its Government grant.

The charity has helped stars including Brand and Davina McCall, host of Channel 4's Big Brother show, to overcome drug addiction.

It saw about 140 people through its 12-week full time addiction programme last year compared with about 100 full-time clients the previous year. More are expected this year as a knock-on effect of the economic downturn.

The charity, which has six full-time staff, was set up in 1997 by Mr Somers and offers a free assessment and intervention service to those in need.

Brand, who performed live on stage in Ipswich on Monday as part of a national comedy tour Scandalous, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

The comedian hit the headlines last year after he and fellow presenter Jonathan Ross left obscene messages on actor Andrew Sachs' answerphone during his Radio 2 show.

Brand resigned from the show while Ross was suspended from the BBC for three months. He returned to work yesterday.

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