Treatment workforce expands in wake of strategy funding

The drug and alcohol treatment workforce has grown by 1,670 staff in the first year of funding following the government’s drug strategy, the Home Office has announced. This includes more than 1,250 new drug and alcohol workers, almost 480 of whom are focused on criminal justice.

According to the first ever national drug and alcohol treatment and recovery workforce census, published earlier this year, in 2022 there were almost 11,500 ‘wholetime equivalent’ treatment provider staff, almost half of whom were drug and alcohol workers (DDN, April, page 6).

The number of people having an inpatient stay in a specialist detox unit is also up by more than 25 per cent, while the number going to a residential rehab has increased by just under 5 per cent, says the Home Office document From harm to hope: first annual report 2022 to 2023. In terms of the criminal justice response, more than 1,300 county lines have been closed, it states, with almost 26,000 arrests across 13 project ADDER sites since 2021 – including more than 12,000 in the last year.

‘Our ambition is to support an additional 54,500 people into treatment by March 2025, focusing on the areas hardest hit by drug misuse first, with other areas following in years two and three,’ says the report. The overall number of adult treatment places has remained relatively stable in the year to March 2023, however, with local authorities focusing on recruiting new staff and building up local partnerships.

‘Local authorities have recently reviewed and updated their local annual treatment and recovery plans which must be in place before they can access the additional investment provided through the drugs strategy,’ the document states. ‘They have been encouraged to develop their plans against a menu of evidence-based interventions including recovery services and to be clear about where investments are focused. No two areas are alike, and this includes setting local ambitions to increase treatment capacity, which would deliver our national ambitions.’

Dame Carol Black: This journey requires ‘considerable cultural and operational change’

‘Although encouraged by the progress made so far, I would like us to be more agile in the years ahead,’ said Dame Carol Black in her foreword to the report. ‘We are on a unique and transformative journey, requiring considerable cultural and operational change. I have, without exception, seen examples everywhere I have been of people doing their absolute best to help turn people’s lives around. Those who work in addiction need to be given appropriate resources and tools, and leaders who can bring about whole-system change. I have seen some excellent practice but also practice that needs to improve – this requires integration into the recovery process of mental health and trauma support, housing support, and training and work opportunities.’

While the sector had ‘come a very long way’ since 2021, there was more to do, she stated – ‘we must be bold, determined and innovative, working around or through barriers, making our case for further support so that we realise our ambitions for the world-class system we can and should deliver.’

Read the report here

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