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Collective Voice responds to the Budget 2020

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Collective Voice welcomes the investment announced in today’s budget around substance use support. It has committed £46 million from a new Shared Outcomes Fund “to provide improved support to individuals experiencing multiple complex needs, such as homelessness, reoffending and substance misuse”. It has also committed to £262 million for substance misuse treatment services to support people sleeping rough.

The evidence is clear. Research, frontline expertise and lived experience have long shown that substance use often plays a key factor in homelessness and rough sleeping. Any attempt to support people off the street is doomed to failure without comprehensive support for allied life challenges such as mental health, involvement in the criminal justice system, and drug and alcohol misuse.

The work of the Making Every Adult Matter (of which Collective Voice is an associate member) clearly demonstrates the importance of joining up services at a local level – we hope that is what the Shared Outcomes Fund will do – but also the need for political leadership on this cross-cutting issue.

Both of the funding announcements are welcome, but we need to keep things in perspective – the public health grant has been cut by £850 million since 2014/15 as part of wider local government reductions. And while ring-fenced innovation funding pots are welcome to any field, it’s essential they are not used to simply plaster over decimated core budgets for life-saving services.

It is therefore of urgent importance that the public health grant allocations for 2020/21 are confirmed as soon as possible.

Dame Carol Black’s Review of Drugs, published earlier this year, made it clear that only a small percentage of overall spend around drugs is targeted at recovery and treatment. We can – and should – do much more to help those experiencing the very worst health and social inequalities. It’s also important to remember that the vast majority of people struggling with their drug or alcohol use are not sleeping rough. It’s therefore essential that the full range of need is met.

We call on the government to restore to the public health grant the £850 million lost over recent years – and for local government leaders to prioritise the needs of local citizens who experience the most extreme health inequalities in their areas, including people with drug and alcohol problems.

Today’s announcement builds on the energy of the Black Review and the recent Glasgow summits. As a field we are ready and waiting to unlock the potential of the thousands of people in England who currently aren’t getting the help they need and deserve. As we said in joint response to the Black Review with the NHS Substance Misuse Providers Alliance and the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Addictions Faculty:

“We are fortunate to have such an established evidence base in the UK. We know what works. We are equipped with a range of interventions from opioid substitute therapy to motivational interviewing, from needle exchange to residential rehab which can be drawn upon by skilled workers to meet the needs of their clients at the exactly the right time. As organisations representing both voluntary and NHS sector providers and their staff we are ready to work in close partnership to make that happen.”

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