Following the disappointments of last year’s Spending Review, today’s announcement of £80 million funding for drug treatment is to be welcomed. Year-on-year rises in drug related deaths since 2012 surely constitute a crisis and the stresses of Covid-19 have only exacerbated challenges to our treatment and recovery system.
The announcement is framed squarely around reducing crime. This makes sense; drug treatment has always been one of the most effective policy tools we have available for reducing crime. But we should not let the crime focus obscure a very human picture of the experience of addiction; often preceded by trauma and manifest in a range of inter-locked life challenges.
The funding will allow local areas to tackle some of those challenges, improving pathways between custodial and community settings, and focusing on welcome priority areas such as Tier4 services (detox and residential rehabilitation) and naloxone.
The investment is therefore both a practical life-raft for a beleaguered system and a welcome signal of political intent.
However, that intent must now evolve into the established momentum necessary for long-term reform and renewal. With treatment budgets significantly reduced across the country, it is imperative today’s announcement is followed in Autumn’s Comprehensive Spending Review by a substantial multi-year settlement for treatment, and that the recommendations of Dame Carol Black’s Independent Review of Drugs are responded to with the focus and drive they will surely deserve.
Reformed and renewed, our system can do what it does best: deliver evidence-based, lifesaving support to some of our most vulnerable citizens – surely an essential element of a wider levelling up of our left behind communities.
So, as laid out in our recent blog, we now urge the Department of Health and Social Care to publish the Black Review as soon as possible, and trust that the Government will meet its ambitions with the resource and leadership needed to bring about a genuine step change.