PQ: Spending on drug and alcohol issues by NHS & local authorities

The Labour MP, Seema Malhotra, asked the Department of Health about the spending on drug and alcohol prevention and treatment.

The reply suggests that currently this data isn’t available (though we know that local authorities do already report their spending on young people’s substance misuse services), but that this may change.

Anna Soubry, the Public Health Minister, says:

Each local authority is free to determine their actual spend on alcohol and drug prevention, treatment and recovery based on an assessment of need. They will be required to report their spending in these areas on an annual basis.

What isn’t clear from the answer is whether the DH expect this to be broken down so that it is clearer how much (or little) is spent on prevention, treatment and recovery.

Given the importance that many government policies place on preventative work and in the context of how the last Focal Point report found it impossible to identify prevention spending at a local level it seems to that it would be important that this distinction is made.

Parliamentary Question – DfE spending on drug education

Conservative MP Nick Dubois asks the DfE:

(1) how much the Department spent on educating young people on the risks associated with Class (a) A, (b) B and (c) C drugs in each of the last five years;

(2) how much the Department spent on advertising the risks associated with Class (a) A, (b) B and (c) C drugs via the Frank drug information campaign in each of the last five years.

The DfE Minister, Elizabeth Truss, responds:

The Department for Education does not explicitly fund drug education. School pupils are currently provided with education on the physiological effects of drugs as part of the statutory National Curriculum Programmes of Study for science. They may also receive wider drugs education as part of non-statutory personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education.

The FRANK service provides information and advice to young people about drugs. The Home Office, Department of Health and Department for Education work together to support the service. Funding is not allocated to advertising the risks associated with specific classes of drugs.

Here’s an example of the sort of information and advice FRANK has been providing young people.

Spending on drugs policy

The Department for Health publish the UK Focal Point report on drugs every year.  It’s a fantastically useful document in many ways setting out the progress that has been made by government and the challenges they’ve faced.

One of the important things that the report does is quantify the amount of money that is spent on drug policy.  It’s from here that we know that spending on ‘drug education’ (in reality the FRANK budget) fell to £0.5 million last year.

But what the report doesn’t do is tell us about the spending that isn’t labelled explicitly as being about drugs, but none the less is.  In our field the money that schools have to deliver their drug education lessons for example, but more importantly all the money that is tied up in the criminal justice system.

Spending on drug policy

Here I’m grateful to Professor Alex Stevens from Kent University who tweeted a link to the EMCDDA’s estimate of how much we’re spending.

In terms of education the EMCDDA suggest that in 2005 about 1.4% of the total budget was spent on education, compared to over 60% on public order and safety.

I thought it’d be worth looking at whether we’re an exception in spending at that sort of level and so I’ve looked at what has been labelled as ‘education’, ‘prevention’ or ‘demand reduction’.  It should be noted that not all countries provide data on their spending, but where they have it is clear that the UK spending in this area whilst similar to many others is still at the lower end of the spectrum.

Spend on Education in EU

Big cut to spending on drug and alcohol services next year

Data from the Department of Education provides an idea of how much local authorities are spending on drug and alcohol services.

Their release for planned spending in 2012/13 suggests that there will be £7m less in budget (a fall of 16%) than this year.

This is in the context of an overall rise in spending on children’s services of over £100m in the same period.

From my point of view this looks to be a disinvestment in success – there are now fewer young people using drugs and alcohol, and fewer young people entering treatment.

It’s also difficult to square with Oliver Letwin’s promise that there “will be more funds for drug prevention, rehabilitation and recovery, and for the rehabilitation of prisoners.”