Today the Home Office has published the Government's drug strategy, Reducing demand, restricting supply, building recovery: supporting people to live a drug free life.
Responding to the publication of the document, Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope, said:
“The strategy gives a strong emphasis on supporting treatment and recovery. We welcome the content, tone and approach outlined in the strategy, particularly the need to build on progress achieved, putting individuals at the heart of recovery and working with a range of services, such as training, housing and wider health services.
“The aspiration for treatment and recovery is to be applauded, but the challenge will be ensuring that high level ambition is delivered and sustained locally, not least at a time of policy change, uncertainty and spending cuts. We welcome the fact that the benefit system will offer support for recovery rather than additional targeted sanctions and that the need to work with potential employers is recognised. In promoting a recovery agenda the Government needs to ensure doors are opened for people wanting to reintegrate into society and get back into work.
“The next couple of years will be a period of transition and managing the process will be crucial in delivering the change the Government has outlined. It is imperative that local authorities and communities are fully engaged in supporting the strategy, and that the strong case for partnership, investment and support for problem drug users and their families is demonstrated.”
Dependence on prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drug use is mentioned in the introduction, with a commitment that the Strategy will address these issues, but there is then no further mention in the document.However, DrugScope notes that the Department of Health has yet to publish its review into dependence on prescription and OTC drugs and awaits this with interest.
With regards to proposed changes to tackling the supply side, it remains to be seen if restructuring the enforcement structures at a local and national level will deliver the significant reductions in drug supply that the government aspires to achieve.
It is encouraging to see the commitment to evidence-based drug policy and continued scientific involvement in the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and the acknowledgement that treatment services must meet the needs of minority groups.
Summary of the drug strategy document
The strategy is structured around three themes:
- reducing demand;
- restricting supply;
- building recovery in communities.
The two overarching aims are:
- reduce illicit and other harmful drug use;
- increase the numbers recovering from their dependence.
Building recovery in communities
“The Government will work with, and offer every opportunity to, those people who face up to the problems caused by their dependence on drugs or alcohol, and who wish to take the steps to address them.
Investment in drug treatment has built capacity and brought about ‘substantial health gains’. The same progress needs to be made in treating those with ‘more severe alcohol dependence’.
Recovery involves three overarching principles – wellbeing, citizenship, and freedom from dependence: ‘It is an individual, person centred journey…and one that will mean different things to different people.’
The individual will be put at the heart of any recovery system. Supporting people to live a drug free life at the heart of the recovery ambition.
Substitute prescribing continues to have a role to play. ‘Medically-assisted recovery can, and does, happen.’ ‘However, far too many people being sustained on a substitute prescription – ‘this must change’.
Role of Public Health England
Directors of Public Health will be responsible for commissioning and oversight of drug and alcohol treatment services, and ensure services are locally led, competitively tendered, and transparent. Operating in a local leadership role they will work with police and crime commissioners, employment and housing services, and prison and probation services in delivering public health outcomes.
Recovery Network Support
Support networks: the strategy recognises the importance of networks in facilitating recovery and wellbeing, including the creation of ‘Recovery Champions’, which includes peer support, and the role of families and parenting. Those working with children and families will undertake intervention training.
Homelessness:the strategy commits to further work with the homelessness sector to promote partnerships with the drug treatment sector. The government has committed £400m over the next four years to support work to prevent and tackle homelessness. It will also invest £6.5 billion in the Supporting People Programme to provide housing support services to vulnerable people.
Employment: the government will look to equip those in recovery with the skills to enable to compete with the jobs that are available. The strategy also mentions that those who engage with structured recovery activity will be offered benefits with appropriately tailored conditionality, and ‘rigorous enforcement’ to those who don’t. This will include amending benefit rules to ensure that people attending residential rehab will be deemed to have reduced capability and automatically entitled to Employment Support Allowance. The government will also promote positive case studies of encourage employers to take on people in recovery.
Payment by Results
‘We are keen to explore how we can incentivise the system to deliver payment on results outcomes’. Six pilots will be implemented to explore Payment by Results.Invitations to tender will be sent immediately, and co-design of pilot areas will begin early in 2011. A Transitional Fund of £100m will be used to help build capacity.
Al areas will be encouraged to set up a single assessment and referral system.
The future of the ACMD
The strategy reiterates the government’s commitment to work with the ACMD, and recognises its field of experts, including science, medicine, law enforcement and social policy, and adds that it has the flexibility to respond to the accelerating pace of challenges.
The strategy recognises the need to tailor services to be responsive to the needs of specific groups such as black and ethnic minorities and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender users.
Rapid access to specialist support for young people is mentioned, especially for those who drug and alcohol use has already started to cause harm, or who are at risk of becoming dependent. The focus will be on the prevention of escalation of use and harm. It adds that the aim is to be drug and alcohol free, using structured treatment with the objective of achieving abstinence, supported by specialist young people’s services such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).