At breaking point

Chronic lack of investment is gambling with lives, agreed members of the Drugs, Alcohol and Justice Cross-Party Parliamentary Group. Read their Charter for Change.

‘The current culture of disinvestment is affecting all aspects of social policy and is creating a negative cycle that does not support recovery in any way, shape or form,’ Kevin Jaffray told a recent meeting of the Drugs, Alcohol and Justice Cross-Party Parliamentary Group.

Kevin Jaffray: ‘The culture of disinvestment does not support recovery in any way, shape or form.’

‘The continued financial restrictions cannot produce any of the desired outcomes, but are instead having a negative impact on penetration and retention, which results in the continued rise in demand for substances, which then escalates the criminal involvement in supply, and together they increase the cost to the wider community,’ he said.

Furthermore: ‘When there is inconsistency in care, due to the constant fear of future security and stability, it makes it impossible to maintain the standard of care that the UK was once held in international high esteem for… we are now beyond breaking point and paying with our lives.’

Read the charter for change here

Jaffray, a peer educator and trainer, made the case for urgent reinvestment in the sector and called for an end to the increasingly competitive market that compromised standards of care. Genuine service user involvement should be integral to running local services and keeping risks and preventable harms in check.

‘Enough is enough,’ he concluded. ‘We demand action – no more deaths, lest you are prepared to live with our blood on your hands.’

The group opened discussion on Jaffray’s points through reviewing their recent Charter for Change (See also DDN, May, page 7).

Yasmin Batliwala: ‘We once had services that led the way.’

‘We once had services that led the way,’ said Yasmin Batliwala, chair of Westminster Drug Project. ‘We now need to do a lot to catch up with countries in the developing world that are doing a lot more for their service users. The sign of a civilised society is how it cares for its most vulnerable.’

John Jolly, chief executive of Blenheim, highlighted the prominence of an evidence-based alcohol strategy in the charter, aimed at tackling deaths from liver disease, many cancers, high blood pressure, cirrhosis and depression. The crisis in hospitals was exacerbated by beds being blocked because of alcohol-related issues, he said, adding ‘it’s been an uphill battle to get an alcohol strategy’.

John Jolly: Lack of investment has left us unable to respond to ‘huge health issues’ coming our way.

Chronic health conditions – including hepatitis C, which had 90 per cent of cases relating to drug use – far outnumbered deaths from drug-related poisoning, he pointed out.

‘We’re failing by the rationing of treatment for a stigmatised group of people,’ he said, because ‘there is no mandate for local authorities to produce drug and alcohol treatment’. The loss of ring-fence around funding combined with the cost pressures on local authorities made their decisions impossible: ‘If you’re choosing between drug treatment and social care for the elderly, which do you choose?’

‘Huge pressures on the system and lack of invest­ment in the sector’ left an ‘inability to respond to the huge health issues that are coming our way’, he warned.

‘We know the impact on employment chances among other things,’ added Sophie Paley of Addaction. ‘We’ve got the evidence – we need the government to act on it.’

The parliamentary group is calling on the government to focus on ten key issues through a Charter for Change. Read it here