Last week the government published part 2 of Dame Carol Black’s independent review of drugs, which looks at prevention, treatment and recovery from drug addiction and makes recommendations for a radical step-change in funding, leadership and commissioning. At the time of publication, the government announced that it will launch a new cross-government unit on drugs headed by Kit Malthouse MP, Minister for Crime and Policing. The unit will be housed in the Home Office, and – as recommended by Dame Carol – will bring together six key departments working on health, treatment and recovery, employment, housing and the criminal justice system.
We welcome part 2 of the independent review and its emphasis on the complexity of issues experienced by people facing drug addiction and wider multiple disadvantage. From the 32 recommendations within the review we would particularly highlight:
- Significant ring-fenced investment to underpin the recommendations, calling for an additional £1.7 billion for treatment and recovery support and £64.5 million for employment support over 5 years. The report also calls on departments to work with the MHCLG to develop funding proposals for accommodation ahead of the spending review. In our evidence submission, we noted that the substance misuse sector has lost 25% in overall funding over the last 5 years, and so the emphasis on investment is welcome.
- Whole-systems collaboration with increased national and local accountability, including a National and Local Outcomes Frameworks and a Commissioning Quality Standard for local areas and regions. We welcome the proposal to set incentives and expectations about the full range of outcomes and treatment services that should be available in a local area, which we know are not always available to people experiencing multiple disadvantage. The suggestion that local authorities should be required to develop these with health, housing and employment support, and criminal justice partners is also positive.
- Rebuilding the workforce through increased funding and greater use of occupational standards, competency and training requirements, with a particular focus on co-occurring mental health and drug dependency. We also welcome the reports’ emphasis on the issue of high caseloads.
- Improved relationships between mental health and drug support services. The review is right to call for an end to bad practices such as blanket bans for people with drug dependencies, and to suggest that government explore best practice regarding the commissioning of mental health support for people who are drug dependent.
- For the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to work with the Department of Health and Social Care to gain a better understanding of the types and level of housing needed for people experiencing substance misuse.
- An alternative to short prison sentences through an expansion of the Community Sentence Treatment Requirements (CSTR) programme, as well as an improvement of substance treatment inside prisons.
The report strongly advocates a whole-systems approach that highlights the wider determinants to treatment and recovery, and we are pleased that the government has signaled its early commitment to drive this through the proposed Drugs Unit. Effective, cross-government collaboration and improved local partnerships are crucial in driving systems change, and ensuring people experiencing multiple disadvantage get the support they need.
Everyone working to support people facing multiple disadvantage has a role to play in helping to implement the recommendations in Dame Carol Black’s report and shape the future. We look forward to the government’s initial response to these recommendations ahead of the autumn spending review and to supporting local areas across our network to consider what these recommendations mean for them.