Duke of Cambridge’s praise for recovering drug addicts

The Duke of Cambridge told two recovering drug addicts he was “so proud of you guys” after they explained how an initiative in Blackpool helped get their lives back on track.

Best friends Louise West, 34, and Steven Brown, 40, who described themselves jokingly as “the other Wills and Kate”, met the royal couple during a visit to Blackpool Central Library, where they heard about a number of  mental health projects in the town.

One scheme was Jobs, Friends and Houses, which helps ex-offenders to transform and better their lives with around-the-clock support to help them find employment and provide accommodation.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Blackpool
The Duchess of Cambridge arrives for the visit (Danny Lawson/PA)

Ms West told William and Kate how she became addicted to drugs from the age of 13 but had not used for two years.

She said she left Oldham where she was a victim of domestic violence to go to Blackpool near her mother.

She said she was working on her recovery every day but she had started to enjoy life and had even sat her GCSEs at the same time as her daughter.

With her 17-year-old daughter at sixth form college, Ms West said she would like to study psychology in the future.

Ms West told the couple: “Somebody said to me that meeting the royals would be one the highlights of your life but the highlight for me was recently when I dropped my daughter off at her friend’s house and she asked me to come in and meet her friend’s parents.

“That had never happened before she was embarrassed to walk past me in the street in Oldham when I was six-and-half stone.”

Kate asked her: “What’s your main message to people?”

Ms West replied: “Any addict can get clean and stay clean.”

Mr Brown told the duke and duchess he used drugs from the age of 12, was in prison for the first time at 17 and had been in and out of prisons for 20 years.

He said: “I was being a nightmare for the police if I’m honest because I was a prolific offender in Blackpool.

“When I came out of prison I was put in hostels. Some of them are really rough and people are using in there.

“In 2009, my brother bought a bag of heroin. It was laced with anthrax and he died. I tried to commit suicide.

“I would commit crime when I got out of prison and would hurt my family. I didn’t know people could get clean in Blackpool.”

William said: “It is a vicious circle and it is how do you break that circle. Was reaching rock bottom after your brother, what was the realisation?

Mr Brown said: “I have had loads of rock bottoms. Most of my friends had died.

“I had had enough one day in prison and made the decision for the first time in my life to stop taking drugs.

William told the pair: “I am so proud of you guys, We will never truly understand what you have been through but you should take great strength from where you are now.”

The royal couple also learned more about Blackpool’s A Better Start programme, one of five such 10-year projects in the UK funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.

Merle Davies, the director of Blackpool’s Centre for Early Child Development discussed the impact of long-term investment in mothers, fathers and children in their early years.