This blog was written by Anyone’s Child campaign manager and Transform Deputy CEO, Jane Slater.

14 July marked our five year anniversary since launching Anyone’s Child.

Over the past five years we have grown to a network of over 40 UK based families, with a supporting network of over 100 activists and affiliate campaigns running in four countries. We are a strong and growing movement of people whose lives have been destroyed by current drug policy who are now committed to changing things by speaking truth to power, telling our stories and demanding the legal control and regulation of the drugs market.

Here are some of our remarkable achievements to date:

Families launch the campaign July 2015

We need your help today – email your MP to save lives and protect our communities In the UK drug-related deaths are at a record high, our prisons are in crisis and drugs are getting stronger. The situation is out of control and MPs refuse to face the facts. We want you to contact your MP directly to ask what they intend to do about our failed drug laws. Regardless of whether you voted for them or not, it’s their job to represent and listen to all their constituents. Click the button below to visit the UK parliament website, where you can find your MP’s email address. You can copy and paste the template email we’ve produced here, or write your own if you prefer. Please bcc into all emails, and forward any response to us so that we can keep track of which MPs are contacted, and what they say.

Families assemble in Westminster, July 14th 2015. We handed in a letter to the then Prime Minister David Cameron calling for an independent review of drug policy

Lobbying Parliament

We have returned to parliament to lobby MPs every year since launching. Families assembled in record numbers in Westminster as part of our Day of Action June 26th 2019. Impacted families and passionate activists met with over 50 MPs to discuss the needs to reform our failed drug laws. MPs from each political party came to college green to speak to our activists and support our call for change. 

This year we had to adapt due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we held an online lobby with many activists writing to their MPs and holding zoom meetings. We also held a webinar to mark the Support. Don’t Punish Global Day of Action:

Families changing policy at the United Nations

Anyone's Child families at the United Nations

Anyone’s Child headed to New York to the United Nations for the 2016 UNGASS (United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs).

Families were present in New York in record numbers to raise the need for drug policy reform at the historic UNGASS 2016 meeting.

Canadian mum, Donna May, was directly referenced by the Canadian Health Minister, Jane Philpott, when she announced Canada’s plans to reform their drug laws. Canada has now become the first G7 country to legally regulate cannabis and is currently exploring innovations with other drugs.

“In preparation for this event, I met with a group of NGOs… But the most powerful voice of all belonged to a mother.  She was there to tell the story of her young daughter, who lost her life due to complications of substance use. She described watching her daughter slip away, as she struggled to access the treatment and services that may have saved a beautiful, fragile life.  Stories like this are far too commonplace. Today, I stand before you as Canada’s Minister of Health, to acknowledge that we must do better for our citizens.” Jane Philpott, Former Canadian Minister of Health

Watch our film telling Donna’s story here:

Changing the national conversation on drugs

Anyone’s Child and the families involved have now appeared in a vast array of media outlets. We average some 70 media hits per year with publicity in publications including the Mail on Sunday, the Guardian, Closer Magazine, the British Medical Journal, Good Housekeeping, local and national radio and the Telegraph.

Anne-Marie Cockburn, Martha’s mum, appeared on BBC Newsnight in 2017. This has now had well-over 10 million views on facebook.

Influencing the parliamentary conversation

The families are increasingly influencing MPs and changing the discussion on drugs in parliament. This issue was historically taboo and very few MPs were on the record calling for reform prior to 2015. In the June 2017 parliamentary drug debate, seven Anyone’s Child families were directly referenced. This was a first; more and more MPs are now willing to publicly call for reform and families have played a critical role in encouraging them to speak out

Norman Lamb MP quoted Anne-Marie Cockburn as she watched from the public gallery:

Let me quote Anne-Marie Cockburn—she has been mentioned in the debate—from the Anyone’s Child project: ‘I invite the Prime Minister to come and stand by my daughter’s grave, and tell me her approach to drugs is working.’ That is a parent who lost their daughter as a result of the current approach to drug policy.”

Jeff Smith MP told the story of Cara Lavan, his friend and an Anyone’s Child campaigner:

My friend Cara’s son is five tomorrow. It will be his third birthday without his father Jake, who died of a heroin overdose. Cara wants to legalise drugs to end the stigma around drug use and to end the unnecessary criminalisation of drug users that made it so hard for her family to deal with Jake’s addiction, and makes it more difficult for people to seek help with drug problems.”

A growing network of international partners

In 2017 we launched affiliate campaigns of Anyone’s Child international. Find out more about the work of these groups in Belgium, Kenya and Mexico

We worked closely with Bristol University and partners in Mexico to develop an innovative interactive-documentary to bring the stories of families living on the front line of the drug war to a global audience. Watch the i-doc here

Families make local change a reality

Anyone’s Child families have also been hugely influential in bringing about life-saving, local reforms across the country. 

We have held regional meetings and activist training workshops in Bristol, Oxford, Weymouth, Weston-super-Mare, Maidenhead, Manchester, Durham, Exeter and West Wales to help build local support for drug policy reform. 

Families have bravely told their stories to influential stakeholders in the police, healthcare system and local authorities which have contributed to the installment of a pioneering Heroin Assisted Treatment programme in Middlesbrough, Drug Diversion schemes in various policing regions and drug safety testing at festivals across the country, in Bristol City Centre and in Weston-super-Mare.

Get involved:

You can get involved with Anyone’s Child and Transform by joining our Activist Network, you can join our Facebook group for updates here

The best thing to do to help bring about change is write to your MP – you can find our template letter here. If you arrange a meeting with your MP we can help you prepare and even attend the meeting (virtually at the moment) with you. 

We would like to say an enormous ‘thank-you’ to everyone who has been involved over the past five years, including our amazing families, activists and to all the trusts and individuals who have believed in us. In particular we would like to thank the Open Society Foundation, the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, the Tudor Trust and the John Ellerman Foundation.

Change is happening and families are now at the forefront of demanding change to our failed drug laws. We are making great progress and we will not go away and will keep fighting until change happens.