The publication of the second phase of Dame Carol Black’s Independent Review of Drugs will, hopefully, mark a sea-change in approaches to treatment in this country. The report pulls no punches in describing the extent to which funding has been slashed in recent years, and it makes a call for an additional £550 million to be allocated to treatment over the next five years - bringing spending back to 2012 levels. Though even if the UK Government does agree to this additional funding - and we sincerely hope they do - it is worth comparing with the Scottish Government’s commitment to an additional £250 million over the same time period, for a much smaller population.
The report also calls for an overhaul of quality oversight, commissioning models and workforce development. All of which are urgently needed. The drug (and alcohol) treatment sector has been shamefully neglected in recent years, contributing to the appalling increases in drug-related deaths that we have witnessed over the same period. Carol Black is clearly committed to addressing the problems in the sector, and to improving the lives and prospects of those who need support for drug-related problems.
However, the report is disappointing in other respects. Unlike the Phase 1 review, which laid out in forensic detail the scale and impact of drug markets, this review is light on the evidence it brings to bear. It notes that key, evidence-based approaches such as Housing First are vital to holistic treatment approaches, but while calling for expansion of this model the body of the report, Housing First doesn’t make it into the actual recommendations.