Is the UK’s drug strategy at a crossroads, asks Nic Adamson, Deputy Chief Executive at Change Grow Live.
A year ago this week, the publication of the Government’s 10-year Drug Strategy, From Harm to Hope, promised a bold new direction for UK drug policy.
The strategy implemented Dame Carol Black’s hard-hitting report that laid bare the consequences of years of under-funding and fragmented commissioning and called for whole systems change. Change Grow Live and our partners on the ground and in government accepted the challenge to deliver change for the people who use services.
Progress has been made. A more collaborative approach to commissioning. Joint efforts to attract more people to work in the sector. New ways to measure success with input from people who use our services. And we are starting to see green shoots.
As Dame Carol Black said recently, we’ve come a long way in the last twelve months, but a year on, we also face challenges. 2022 has seen political change and an economic downturn. The Government is reviewing its priorities and funding commitments. Extra funding for the Drug Strategy will be eaten into by inflation.
One year on, we must hold to the positive vision of From Harm to Hope and most importantly, its ambition to transform services, not just deliver more of the same. Substance use is a chronic health condition – when we treat it like that change is possible. We’ve seen it. Services that fit the person, and not the other way round, encourage trust. We need to ensure that people are not defined by the things that have led them to seek support but are met and respected as individuals with goals and ambitions of their own.
As we push ahead with the drug strategy, let’s recognise that no organisation on its own can be as powerful a force for change as we can be together. It’s up to all of us in our sector and beyond to ensure that we work together, to address wider health and economic inequalities faced by people, families, friends, and communities.
A year after publication, the drug strategy is starting to make a difference, but this is a long-term challenge. We all need to continue to be bold and relentless. Change Grow Live and our partners, volunteers and staff are determined to keep the agenda front of mind for decision-makers and to make it a reality on the ground.
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