Only ten local authorities have been able to increase their spending on drug and alcohol treatment services in real terms since 2016, according to analysis by the Labour Party for the House of Commons Library.
All other councils experienced a ‘real-term’ budget cut, says Labour, with four – Medway, Staffordshire, Tyneside and Wiltshire – seeing real-term cuts of more than 40 per cent.
Overall, local authority treatment services have seen real-term cuts equivalent to 15 per cent since 2016-17, it adds – from £762.37m to £689.76m – with dwindling public health budgets necessitating ‘incredibly difficult decisions’ about services. It was ‘unacceptable’ that treatment services had been left ‘so weakened’, said shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth. ‘We need a new settlement for public health services, a clear target to reduce inequalities, and action to minimise harm and help prevent so many dying from addiction.’
‘With deaths linked to alcohol and other drugs at an all-time high, urgent action must be taken to save lives,’ added Alcohol Health Alliance chair Professor Sir Ian Gilmore. ‘Treatment is essential to help those with alcohol dependence towards recovery but has long been underfunded and inaccessible to many. In England, only one in five dependent drinkers are in treatment and continual cuts to services denies help to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
‘We look forward to working with the government on the forthcoming addiction strategy to ensure that the epidemic of alcohol harm gets the attention it deserves and that adequate resources are allocated to preventing and treating it.’
Meanwhile, the Home Office has awarded £11.3m to 25 police and crime commissioners (PCC) to fund domestic abuse intervention programmes, with specific programmes including ‘targeted support to address substance misuse, mental health and unemployment’.