People experiencing drug or alcohol addiction have been badly let down by years of government disinterest and cuts to treatment and recovery budgets. The consequences are stark. Deaths from drug or alcohol-related causes are at record levels, and there are alarming rises in substance misuse by young people.
Dame Carol Black has provided a compelling set of costed policy solutions to this problem. The government has been presented with a plan – and has a duty to implement it, reverse these trends, rebuild a stronger treatment and recovery system, and give hundreds of thousands of people the opportunity to get the support they so badly need.
Sadly, the government’s Spending Review appears to fail in getting to grips with the challenge. Some commitments to continue funding for people experiencing a combination of substance misuse and either homelessness or contact with the criminal justice system are very much welcome. But without major, sustained investment in treatment and recovery any gains could be put at risk. There is also a worrying lack of attention to alcohol harms.
An additional £42 million per year is pledged for ‘new programmes that reduce crime and drugs misuse’. Details of what this will fund will presumably follow. But alone, and with no uplift to the Public Health Grant, the level of investment announced today falls far short of the level needed to enact the whole-system approach advocated by Dame Carol Black, which will prevent over 3,000 opiate overdoses and 2.8 million crimes, and see an extra 95,000 people entering treatment.
We look forward to further clarity on this £42 million. But more importantly we urge the government to outline its vision of a better future through the publication of its cross-governmental Drug Strategy and a ring-fenced, multi-year fund to enable its implementation. Without it, today’s announcement will become yet another missed opportunity to save lives, renew citizenship, heal families, and reduce crime driven by addiction and poverty.
Collective Voice will publish more complete analysis in the coming weeks.