Willetts moves to the charity, which seeks to provide information to aid policy development and reduce drug risk, after four years as director of external affairs at the British Association for the Advancement of Science. She assumes the role vacated in February by Helen Wilkinson, who joined the Kids Club organisation as director of external affairs.
Willetts heads a team of 20, which includes information, publishing and library staff, in addition to six marcoms employees. She said her appointment would see an increased emphasis on communications issues: ‘It’s a definite shift for DrugScope and will see us cranking up our PR and PA work. There are a variety of people and institutions for us to target, from people in the education and prevention fields and those who work with offenders through to the UK Government, the European Commission and the United Nations,’ she said. She added that in addition to its profile-raising and membership-related work, DrugScope would become increasingly forthright in campaigning: ‘We’re looking to become more proactive in our campaigning.’
It recently launched the Using Women campaign, to highlight the futility of tough prison sentences for female drug offenders. One of the main issues DrugScope will campaign on is ‘drug testing orders’ made by the judiciary when dealing with drugs users in criminal proceedings. The Government has increased its targets for the number of offenders subject to these orders.
However,the charity is concerned the effect may be ‘quantitative and not qualitative’. ‘There are many issues surrounding orders and we want to focus on their success rates,’ Willetts added.