Man taking drugs

More funding needed for further drug progress

A report from the Public Accounts Committee has found that mixed progress has been made when it comes to government efforts to reduce the harm from illegal drugs.

Whilst finding that achievements have been made, including in the recruitment of drug workers and disruption of supplies, there was a lack of clarity in the progress that was made in respect to drug use and other related harm. The report also outlined how concerning it is that young people are seeing the fastest increase in drug use, and the fact that there has been an 80% increase in drug-related deaths between 2011 and 2021.

Quote from Dame Meg Hillier

Speaking about the report Dame Meg Hillier, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said:

“The tragic deaths and harms caused by illegal drug use are a desperate blight on our whole society. Professor Dame Carol Black’s independent review of drugs did so much to articulate the challenges in this area. Her evidence and those of other experts to our inquiry make clear that a steely-eyed focus on investment in treatment and prevention from Government is required to improve the lives of those affected by drugs and bring down their economic and social costs.

Despite making a ten-year commitment to reduce the amount of drug use, crime and death, this requires committed investment and focus, however, the government has only made investment until 2024-25. Thanks to this lack of certainty with regard to investment, local authorities are finding it difficult to recruit staff and build their treatment workforce. Further contributing to this is the fact that early progress was also hindered by delayed funding allocations. Touching on the funding aspect of the report, Dame Hillier continued:

“As with our previous alcohol treatment services report, our Committee is having to remind Government that local authorities need long-term certainty to carry out what is some of the most challenging treatment there is to provide. Some progress has been made, in particular in recruiting 1,200 new alcohol and drug workers and bearing down on county lines drugs supply. But deaths continue to rise, drug use showed no reduction in the last 10 years, and the harm caused by illegal drugs is growing. The Government must now dig deep and prove that it is serious about delivering the long-term change implicit in its own strategy.”

The Local Government Association has also responded to the report, with Chairman of the Community Wellbeing Board Cllr David Fothergill saying:

"Councils are absolutely committed to ensuring vulnerable people with substance misuse problems get the right support and have a proud record of helping to transform the lives of people living with addiction.

“However, as this report recognises, these services need greater and more long-term funding certainty from government if they are to deliver the life-changing benefits we know they can.

“Councils report that it is proving difficult to plan to expand services due to long-term financial uncertainty, significant recruitment challenges and the inability to offer longer-term contracts of employment.

“Drug treatment cuts crime, improves health, and can support individuals and families on the road to recovery, reflecting a return of £4 for every £1 invested.”

As local authorities are already under pressure to deliver services at a high level despite financial struggles, the Public Accounts Committee also stated that it is ‘disappointed’ with a seeming unwillingness from the government to explore how more confidence can be instilled in local authorities through long-term funding.

 

Image credit: iStock

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