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  • Writer's pictureDahlia Foundation

£421 million to boost drug and alcohol treatment across England


Local authorities across England will benefit from an extra £421 million government funding through to 2025 to improve drug and alcohol addiction treatment and recovery, the government announced today (16 February 2023).

The extra funding means that total local authority funding for treatment will have increased 40% between 2020 to 2021 and 2024 to 2025. It will enable the creation of over 50,000 high-quality places in drug and alcohol treatment.

The funding will enable local authorities to:

  • recruit more staff to work with people with drug and alcohol problems

  • support more prison leavers into treatment and recovery services

  • invest in enhancing the quality of treatment they provide - in turn helping make streets safer by getting people out of the addictions which are known to drive offending

More people will benefit from residential rehabilitation or inpatient detoxification, while improvements to the recovery services will sustain them outside of treatment - helping to reduce relapse rates.

One hundred and fifty-one local authorities across England are being allocated funding to increase the quality and capacity of drug and alcohol treatment and recovery services. The funding includes £154.3 million for 2023 to 2024, and indicative funding of £266.7 million for 2024 to 2025.

The government’s drug strategy, published in December 2021, set out our ambition to significantly increase the capacity of treatment and recovery services as part of the whole-system approach to tackling supply and demand. It is estimated that, over the first 3 years of the strategy, the additional investment in treatment and recovery will prevent nearly 1,000 drug-related deaths - reversing the upward trend in drug deaths for the first time in a decade.

The strategy also set out that illegal drugs drive half of all homicides, and nearly half of all burglaries, robberies and other acquisitive crimes are linked to heroin and crack addiction. Dame Carol Black’s independent review of drugs found the best way to tackle this issue is by boosting the capacity of the treatment and recovery system.

This comes alongside the government’s work to clamp down on the criminal gangs profiting from the trade in illegal drugs, backed by £300 million investment to dismantle over 2,000 county lines, make thousands more arrests and protect those being exploited.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:

Drug misuse has a massive cost to society - more than 3,000 people died as a result of drug misuse in 2021. This investment in treatment and recovery services is crucial to provide people with high-quality support, with services such as expanding access to life-saving overdose medicines and outreach to young people at risk of drug misuse already helping to reduce harm and improve recovery. This funding will help us build a much improved treatment and recovery service, which will continue to save lives, improve the health and wellbeing of people across the country, and reduce pressure on the NHS by diverting people from addiction into recovery.

Health Minister Neil O’Brien said:

Addictions drive about half of all theft, burglary and robbery, so boosting treatment for addicts will help cut crime. This funding will help improve the quality and capacity of drug and alcohol recovery services right across the country, helping more people access the support they need, saving lives and benefiting communities.

Examples of the work supported in 2022 to 2023 include:

  • Leeds plans to target unmet need from groups with greatest social and economic deprivation with the poorest health outcomes, expand treatment options, and grow their workforce by 85 full-time posts this year

  • Lambeth plans to recruit additional nurses to ease frontline pressures on the substance misuse service, develop a nurse-led outreach prescribing service for residents in the Vulnerable Adults Pathway, and offer one-to-one support for offenders referred via the local HM Prison and Probation Service Chemsex and Crime Lead this year

  • Portsmouth plans to develop the peer-led outreach service, which engages with hard-to-reach drug users and enhances the criminal justice team so that they can offer a 7-day-a-week service in Portsmouth custody suite, as well as providing residential rehabilitation placements for people in the criminal justice system, including those leaving prison

  • Nottinghamshire identified over 170 young adults (aged 18 to 24 years old) living in hostel and move-on accommodation who are not accessing structured drug and alcohol treatment, and have recruited an outreach post to support them into accessing treatment and recovery. They have also continued to invest in a long-acting medicine that treats opiate addiction (Buvidal) with the intention of increasing uptake from 9 people to 40 this year

This funding is prioritised for areas with the highest need, based on the rate of drug deaths, deprivation, opiate and crack cocaine prevalence and crime, taking into account of the size of the treatment population.

Treatment will be available for a wide range of substances, including powder cocaine, ecstasy, prescription drugs and cannabis - the latter remaining the most common substance (87%) for which young people receive treatment.

Today’s funding announcement builds on the additional £95.4 million made available from 2022 to 2023, and a recent announcement of £53 million to improve housing support for drug and alcohol recovery. Through this investment, the government is delivering on its commitments in the 10-year drug strategy to break the cycle of addiction and reduce overall drug use to a historic 30-year low.

The allocations will support the work of local authorities and their partners to improve their services in line with the ambitions set out in the strategy. Local authorities can invest the funding in activity that will increase the capacity and quality of their treatment and recovery system, based on the recommendations made by Dame Carol Black’s independent review of drugs.

Professor Dame Carol Black, independent adviser to the government on combating drug misuse, said:

This continued investment is very welcome, and will be crucial in supporting local authorities and their partners to increase the capacity and quality of their services for people with drug and alcohol dependence, in line with the key recommendations of my independent review of drugs. This will help realise the ambitions of the government’s 10-year drug strategy to deliver a world-class treatment and recovery system, reduce drug use and drug-related crime, and save lives.

Danny Hames and Kate Hall, chair and vice-chair of the NHS Addictions Provider Alliance (APA), said:

The NHS APA welcomes this further commitment to investment in England’s drug treatment system as part of the 10-year drug strategy. We hope that the additional £421 million funding allocated to local authorities across England will be utilised to shape a joined-up system that ensures everyone in need has equal access to high-quality care. This cannot be achieved without partnership work across the sector, something that we are committed to doing as an alliance of NHS trusts, in a continued effort to reduce the rising number of drug-related deaths seen annually and positively change the lives of thousands of people.

Clare Taylor, Chief Operating Officer at Turning Point, a social enterprise, said:

We welcome the funding announced today. The investment into drug and alcohol treatment services on the back of the government’s 10-year drug strategy will enable local services to reach more people, improve outcomes for individuals and reduce the harm caused by drugs. Today we have certainty over the funding situation for the next 2 years, which means that, as a sector, we can plan for the future and focus on ensuring that services are accessible to anyone who needs support, building on the progress already made in joint working across mental health, criminal justice and treatment agencies, and creating safer communities for us all.

Tim Young, Chief Executive of The Alcohol and Drug Service (ADS), said:

We welcome today’s announcement as, without funding, the ambitions set out in the national drug strategy would remain just words on a page. So, while there are no quick or easy fixes for systemic problems such as substance misuse, this presents an opportunity to turn those ambitions into reality, and provide hope for individuals, families and communities.

Lea Milligan, Chair of Collective Voice, said:

In 2021, the 10-year drug strategy ‘From harm to hope’ heralded a significant step change for the treatment and recovery system. We are now over a year on and, despite the challenges of the last 12 months, the strategy is beginning to make a difference. We welcome the government today continuing to unlock new investment to support people facing substance misuse, who are among our communities’ most vulnerable and stigmatised members. Now is the time to press on with the transformational, whole-system approach advocated by Dame Carol Black and set in motion by the drug strategy.

Paul Townsley, Chief Executive Officer of Human Kind Charity, said:

We welcome the confirmation of local authority funding for vital, evidence-based drug and alcohol treatment and recovery services. Dame Carol Black laid out an ambitious vision of how, as a society, we can rebuild our treatment and recovery services to help those most in need. Funding from the 10-year drug strategy that brought Dame Carol Black’s vision to life has already supported us to develop our services in areas with the greatest need. It has also aided the development of our multifaceted approach to supporting people with multiple disadvantage. This is evidenced by the expansion of our Individual Placement and Support offer, an employment support scheme that is integrated into treatment and recovery services. We look forward to working in partnership with the government, local authorities, and in Combating Drugs Partnerships to progress Dame Carol Black’s vision through the 10-year drug strategy.
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