Yesterday the Home Office and the Health Office made a joint announcement that they intend to spend £148m “to dismantle criminal gangs, reduce the demand for illegal drugs and help those in treatment and recovery, to make communities safer.” This sum is split into three separate elements. The largest part of it is £80m which is for the next financial year and it is set out to deal with drug treatment services “across the country”. The remaining £68m will be made up of £40m over the next year to tackle drug supply and “take down county lines gangs” and the balance is for a specific project that clearly is important to the Government and they have set that money out for a three year scheme. The challenge is that the largest sum which is mentioned is just under 9% of the sum that this lady Carol Black has called for to be spent over the next 3 years. Now of course if the Government proposes to spend £80m next year and another £80m the following year, this would represent around 25% of the call for the £900m from Carol Black. Although 25% may not be sufficient it would be a much more robust response than simply offering less than 9% and with no prospects of any future spending. The way that public money gets spent is very challenging on a one year in and one year out approach. The starting point will come around June or July by the time the funds have been allocated and dissipated and then they will need to be spent by the end of March so in fact it will probably represent £80m over 9 months. And then this time next year the Government may set out some money for 22/23. The call for the £900m has been released in this newspaper which states
An email from the drugs tsar, Prof Dame Carol Black, appointed by the government to investigate how best to tackle drugs and violence, was discussed by a senior public health official who analysed the thinking, saying: “Her recommendation for the 21/22 SR [spending review] was that an additional £900m be invested in drug treatment and investment over three years.” It was hoped the plans would “tackle drug crime and rising drug related deaths”, the official added.
Clearly any funding is to be welcomed but if the funding is a one off sum and if it has to be spent in 9 months then it will be relatively inadequate, particularly as it represents such as small amount compared to the sum that Carol Black has recommended. All of us would welcome spending money on new approaches such as this which was part of the announcement.
Additionally, £28m over three years will be directed towards Project ADDER (Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recovery), an innovative and targeted project to reduce drug-related offending, drug deaths and prevalence of drug use.
But if the Government has appointed a Tsar to try to deal with the drug issues and she recommended £900m over three years and the Government has offered £80m for one year, that seems very inadequate as it is a much bigger element than the valuable ADDER item. The way in which the Government has referred to Carol Black has not indicated that they do not want to support her. Back on the 15th December Kit Malthouse from the Home Office stated
The Home Office commissioned Dame Carol Black to lead a major independent Review of Drugs. The Review’s findings were published in February. The Review, building on existing Government strategies to combat drugs, serious violence and serious and organised crime, examined the harms that drugs cause and the best ways to prevent drug-taking. The Health and Social Care Secretary commissioned Dame Carol Black to lead a further review, focused on prevention, treatment and recovery in order to focus our efforts in those areas most effectively
And a month earlier Priti Patel stated
The Policing Minister, working with the Department of Health and Social Care, has been working assiduously on our plans to deal with drug abuse. Those findings will come out in due course, but a great deal of work is being undertaken by this Government through the Dame Carol Black review. We are undertaking a range of work, including some pilot work, on drug abuse.
So the question has to be why is the Government dealing with this so inadequately. Perhaps MPs can raise their questions following yesterdays announcement or indeed given that Police and Crime Commissioners can read the newspaper and are responsible for supporting the policing activity regarding drug reduction, perhaps they could focus on the £820m which has not be allocated rather than get too focused on the smaller sums of money that have been set out so far.