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Our priorities for the next government

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“It’s more important than ever that the voices of voluntary sector drug and alcohol services, and the knowledge and expertise they hold from delivering vital frontline services and support, is heard.”

Updated April 2024 to include further information on implementing evidence based interventions and the solutions to challenges faced by residential treatment services.

2024 is set to be a crucial year for the drug and alcohol treatment and recovery system. The forthcoming general election is likely to take place this year, bringing potential political change. We will all also be keenly aware of the fast approaching funding cliff edge facing services in our sector, as we prepare to enter the 24/25 financial year and come closer to the end of the initial three year funding period announced alongside the ten year drug strategy.

Alongside this, the economic and social challenges of recent years continue, impacting the people our sector exists to support, our staff, and our organisations. The figures released in December show that the drug related deaths crisis continues, with the numbers for 2022 the highest since records began. Every single one these preventable deaths is a tragedy and preventing future deaths, by ensuring that people are able to get the support they need, must be prioritised.

It’s more important than ever that the voices of voluntary sector drug and alcohol services, and the knowledge and expertise they hold from delivering vital frontline services and support, is heard. We’re therefore pleased to be able to share ‘Future priorities for the drug and alcohol treatment and recovery system‘ which sets out the key areas we think the next government should focus on.

These policy priorities and messages have been drawn together based on discussions with organisations across the sector, in Collective Voice Groups over recent months. The wealth of knowledge, expertise, and experience that we’re able to harness through our engagement with the sector means we’re able to speak with a strong, credible and evidence based collective voice.

The next government must prioritise:

  • Sustainable funding cycles

To achieve the system change that is needed and ensure that services are able to effectively plan and rebuild capacity and quality they need sustainable long term funding.

  • Support for the voluntary sector

The voluntary sector must be recognised as a provider of vital, professional, life-saving services. This includes the full ecosystem of charities across the country from large service providers to local, specialist and lived experience recovery organisations.

  • Assessing impact

Measures of impact should focus beyond numbers and criminal justice outcomes and recognise the wide range of contributors to substance use and dependency and the full range of evidence-based interventions that keep people safe and support them to change the way they use drugs.

  • Implementation of evidence based interventions

To ensure that people who want to change the way they use drugs can access the support they need we must ensure the full range of evidence-based interventions are available, from harm reduction to treatment, including residential rehabilitation.

  • Meeting the needs of underserved groups

The strategy and its implementation since publication has had an insufficient focus on understanding and meeting the needs of people currently underserved by our treatment and recovery system including women, people from ethnic minorities, young people, and the families of people with substance misuse problems.

  • Addressing stigma

Government must outline clear actions for how it plans to create a system where no one falls through the gaps, where there is no stigma attached to addiction and drug dependency is treated as a chronic health condition.

  • Tackle drug related deaths

Each of our priorities will support the drug and alcohol treatment and recovery system to better support people so that these deaths are prevented. Government should also prioritise the implementation of naloxone, ensure a full range of harm reduction interventions are considered including the learning from Scotland’s Overdose Prevention Centre and increase drug testing capacity.

  • Publication of the workforce strategy

To create the transformation needed in the system the workforce needs to be rebuilt, developed and sustained with better pathways into the sector, training and development. A workforce strategy to support this was due to published by government by December 2022 but has not been to date.

To read more detail on why we think these are the right priorities for the next government and what we think they need to do to address each download ‘Future priorities for the drug and alcohol treatment and recovery system.

We encourage organisations across the sector to use the content of this document in any way that is helpful in their own influencing. It is not intended to be prescriptive or restrictive but to support a shared and consistent voice across the sector. As the year progresses there may be developments that mean we adjust some of the messages and we will update the document as appropriate based on our discussions with the sector.

It remains unclear exactly when the general election will take place. Some commentators are predicting spring, while most recently Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has indicated the latter half of the year. Given the unpredictable nature of politics at the moment, I would be wary of placing any bets. Nonetheless, Collective Voice will be working over the coming weeks and months to share our priorities and build relationships so that we are well placed to engage with any new government once it is in power.

– Jess Mullen, Chief Executive Officer, Collective Voice

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Collective Voice is the national charity working to improve England’s drug and alcohol treatment and recovery systems