Alcohol and drug services in this country are amongst the best in the world. The investment which has underpinned this is under significant threat. Most of our service users live in our poorest communities where the multiple and overlapping consequences of austerity are concentrated. The wide range of services on which their current well-being and future potential for recovery depend are being withdrawn or curtailed. The already announced £200m cut to the Public Health Grant, the need for Departments to deliver further savings of 25/40% in the Spending Review and the competing demands on Local Authorities and the NHS, will combine to place alcohol and drug services under ever greater strain.
This is the context in which Collective Voice has formed. A collaboration of eight of the largest providers of alcohol and drug treatment and recovery services in the country, we have come together to promote and defend the interests of those who need our services.
To do this most effectively we need to build an alliance of service users, other service providers – particularly those in the NHS – and policy advocates from related fields.
Over the next six months we want to demonstrate that through Collective Voice we can help shape the context in which alcohol and drug services are delivered for the better. This experience will inform proposals for the establishment and funding of sector wide representation into the future.
Our focus will be on influencing outcomes. We will therefore be working closely with key government departments:
- The Home Office on drug policy and the wider crime agenda.
- The Department of Health on the contribution of alcohol and drug services to health outcomes.
- Public Health England on local authorities’ stewardship of alcohol and drug treatment and recovery systems.
- The Ministry of Justice on treatment in prison and as part of community sentences.
- The Department for Work and Pensions on routes to employment.
- The Department for Communities and Local Government on how our services can contribute to local authorities’ overarching responsibility for their communities.
To support our influence we will seek opportunities to explain the benefits alcohol and drug services deliver to the wider community and the contribution we can make to help central and local government achieve its aims and ambitions.
We will collaborate with those providing services for people with mental health problems, homeless people, offenders and other excluded groups because of the significant proportion of our service users who need to draw on these services. Together we will seek to present a powerful value for money argument to government to support investment to address multiple needs
Engaging service users to identify how their interests can best be promoted will be integral to the project. In the past, service user engagement has too often been tokenistic or a reflection of the sector’s ideological schisms. To overcome this we will seek to engage with the multiplicity and complexity of different service users voices.
At the same time as reaching out to related fields we will be making every effort to engage colleagues working in all of the many settings in which alcohol and drug services are delivered. Collective Voice’s purpose is to advance the cause of service users and advocate on behalf of all those providing the interventions they need to stay alive, stay healthy, and promote their recovery. It does not exist to advance the sectional interest of its funders. We will therefore be seeking to work closely with colleagues in NHS services and those delivered by other third sector bodies. The route to influence is to achieve the widest possible support for a tight set of objectives strategically chosen to achieve the greatest impact and sustain the widest support. This cannot be achieved by the eight founding partners working in isolation.
Collective Voice believes that the largest providers of services have an obligation to try to influence events nationally and locally to protect what is currently delivering well, and use the opportunities that will emerge from change to improve outcomes where we can. We have begun to discharge that obligation by creating a space for the entire sector, service users, and our allies to come together to use our collective experience , knowledge, networks , and moral force to shape events and help make the future. We hope as many of you as possible work with us to achieve this shared purpose.