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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 May 2024.

2024 is a crucial year for the drug and alcohol treatment and recovery system. July’s general election may bring political change at a time when services face a funding cliff edge, as the initial three-year funding period announced under the drug strategy comes to an end.  

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 latest figures show that the drug related deaths crisis continues, with the numbers for 2022 the highest since records began. Every single one of 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. Earlier this year we published Future priorities for the drug and alcohol treatment and recovery system which sets out the key areas the next government should focus on, developed in discussion with organisations across the sector, and we have now updated this to reflect recent changes in policy in the sector.  

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. We will continue to offer this expertise to support any incoming government’s efforts to strengthen the drug and alcohol treatment sector. 

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.

  • Implementing 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

A new 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.

  • Tackling 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. A new government should carry forward the work started under the current government to expand the availability of life-saving 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.

  • Implementation 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 ten-year workforce strategy to support this was published in May 2024, and was well received by the sector. A new government must continue to work with the sector and ensure the proper implementation of this strategy.

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.

– Clare Taylor, Interim Chair, Collective Voice

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