The government has promised to publish a ‘long-term’ drug strategy by the end of the year, at the same time as it sets out measures to expand drug-testing on arrest and make people arrested for drug-related offences take part in ‘visible’ unpaid community work as part of its new Beating crime plan. The announcement comes in the government’s response to the second part of Dame Carol Black’s Independent review of drugs, which was published earlier this month (https://www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/more-than-550m-needed-to-save-treatment-system-says-black-report/).
The strategy will present a ‘whole-of-government’ response to help drive down drug supply and demand, it says, including support for people through treatment and recovery combined with an ‘even tougher response to criminal supply chains and the demand that fuels these illegal markets’. The strategy will also address ‘recreational’ drug use, it says, along with ‘developing a high-quality drug treatment and recovery system, fit for an advanced democracy’.
In the meantime the government has announced that it will encourage an increase in the use of drug testing on arrest in a number of police forces, where cocaine or opiates are ‘suspected’ to have contributed to the offence. There will also be ‘clear and meaningful consequences for all those who misuse drugs’, it says, including community service and referral to drug awareness courses.
Writing in the Mail, home secretary Priti Patel said that unpaid work would now be ‘more visible to ensure offenders are publicly making reparations for their crimes’, including ‘cleaning the streets, estates, alleyways and open spaces of litter and other visible signs of disorder in local neighbourhoods’. The government has also said it will trial the use of alcohol tags – which detect alcohol in sweat – on people leaving prison in Wales after sentences for alcohol-related offences, as part of its Beating crime plan. The plan also includes relaxations to conditions related to stop and search.
The response to the Dame Black review, meanwhile, includes an announcement that Project ADDER – which combines improved treatment with targeted law enforcement – is to be expanded to eight new local authority areas across London, Liverpool, Bristol, Newcastle and Wakefield as well as a commitment to ensuring that 75 per cent of prisoners with a substance problem engage in treatment within three weeks of their release ‘by the end of this Parliament’. The government is also setting up a joint combating drugs unit (https://www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/government-commits-to-new-drugs-unit/), with a board to oversee delivery that includes Dame Carol Black and recovery champion Dr Ed Day. Dame Black will remain as an ‘ongoing independent advisor’ to work with government on developing and delivering the strategy, it adds.
‘Drugs are illegal for a reason,’ the response states. ‘They are harmful, affecting both physical and mental health, relationships and career prospects, and wider society. Individuals who use illegal substances need to know they are not only risking their health, but funding dangerous criminals who rely on fear, exploitation and violence.’ The government is drafting a national outcomes framework, it adds, ‘with the purpose of setting out a clear set of measurable goals for the combating drugs programme across government’, with an annual report on progress to be published each year from 2022 onwards.
‘Drugs inflict serious and increasing harm on society and, as my review shows, the provision of services for those addicted requires a reformed whole-system approach,’ said Dame Black. ‘I am pleased that the government have signalled their intention to prioritise this by establishing the Joint cross-Government Unit which was one of my recommendations. I am also delighted to have been given the opportunity to continue to advise the government which shows that they want to put treatment, recovery and prevention at the heart of the upcoming strategy. I will use this role to keep holding all partners to account and to support efforts to combat the drugs that ruin so many lives.’
Government response to the Dame Carol Black review and Beating crime plan at www.gov.uk