The government have responded to the Home Affairs Select Committee’s report on drugs. The select committee’s recommendations covered a range of issues and as such so does the government’s response, but I’m going to focus on what it has to say about two recommendations.
- Recommendation 13
The evidence suggests that early intervention should be an integral part of any policy which is to be effective in breaking the cycle of drug dependency. We recommend that the next version of the Drugs Strategy contain a clear commitment to an effective drugs education and prevention programme, including behaviour-based interventions. (Paragraph 75)
- Recommendation 14
We recommend that Public Health England commit centralised funding for preventative interventions when pilots are proven to be effective. (Paragraph 76)
The government welcome the idea of having a clear commitment to effective drug education in the next strategy, and say they agree that early intervention should be part of the strategy too and that they will use Year 3 of this strategy to focus on these issues.
They say that their expectation is that these interventions should be commissioned at a local authority level, funded by both the Business Rates Retention Scheme (which replaced the Early Intervention Grant) and the Public Health Grant*.
The government say their support for this will be through the Centre for Analysis on Youth Transitions (if you want to find out more about CAYT then our seminar at the month is the place to be), the drug and alcohol information and advice service that Mentor will be running with DrugScope and Adfam, and learning from the Choices programme – through which Mentor and Addaction ran the Street Talk project.
Perhaps the biggest change that is announced in this section is the decision to move the budget for FRANK into Public Health England.
As far as drug education in schools goes, all they will say is:
The Government expects all schools to provide a broad and balanced education that will develop young people’s resilience.
Which doesn’t quite match the Prime Minister’s view where he said:
education about drugs is vital and we should make sure that education programmes are there in our schools and we should make sure that they work.
* As a side note; when asked about how the DfE will follow what’s going on in early intervention their Permanent Secretary pointed to the Section 251 returns they have from local authorities, but argued that they don’t intervene on the level of spending, as these are decisions best left to local politicians. Lucky for him, as our analysis of what those returns tells us is that local authorities are looking to spend £7m less on young people’s substance misuse services next year.
But Chris Wormald, the Permanent Secretary, says:
What we do, as I am sure you know, is inspect children’s services at local authority level, and we intervene when we do not believe that they are appropriate. The big question here is whether you believe that this sort of action is best driven by specific national interventions, like ring fences and those sorts of things, or whether-as we have heard from some of the examples given by the panel-a lot of the best early intervention work happens locally by local professionals.
Interestingly, there will be a ring-fence for public health spending much of which will be to deliver early intervention work.