Drug deaths in England rise by 80% in 10 years as local services cut back to the bone, MPs warn.
A cross-party group of MPs say that drug-related deaths in England increased by 80% between 2011 and 2021, to nearly 3,000 people each year is “unacceptable”.
In a report published on 9th February, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) found that the Government’s efforts to reduce the harm from illegal drugs are seeing “mixed progress”. Click Here to read
The report finds that “though the Government has made a 10-year commitment to reduce drug use, crime and deaths, requiring sustained investment and relentless focus, Government has only committed funding until 2024-25, creating uncertainty that could hinder its own strategy.”
It goes on to say that “This funding uncertainty also makes it difficult for local authorities to recruit staff and rebuild the treatment workforce, with further delays in funding allocations from Government hindering early progress.”
The Public Accounts Committee is “disappointed” that government departments seem “unwilling to explore how to provide local authorities with more confidence over long-term funding.”
This comes against the “background of a significant erosion of councils’ capacity and capability to deliver in this area”. The PAC’s report highlights that annual spending on drug and alcohol treatment services fell by 40% in real terms between 2014-15 and 2021-22, “leading to a reduction in availability and variations in local outcomes which Government has not yet addressed”.
Mike Trace, CEO at the Forward Trust and former Deputy UK Anti-Drug Co-ordinator (1997- 2001) gave evidence to the inquiry
Read more here. He said:
“We have a scandalously high level of drug addiction and drug related deaths in this country – almost 5,000 in the last year. The scale of loss of lives is more than 3 times the number killed annually on our roads.
“For a decade, the addiction treatment system in the UK has been struggling with the ‘perfect storm’ of rising demand and funding cuts. New ideas and resources have recently been put in by the government, but the Public Affairs Committee is right that service funders and provider organisations must use this opportunity to make a generational change to the treatment system – to reduce deaths, reduce drug related crime, and increase the number of people who recover from addiction.
“Addiction is a serious mental illness that has a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities. This must be recognised at all levels of government and society, and a concerted and long-term effort taken to save and improve lives.”
About the PAC inquiry
Reducing the harm from illegal drugs is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to government. The Government has two months to respond. Read more here.
Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
“The tragic deaths and harms caused by illegal drug use are a desperate blight on our whole society. Professor Dame Carol Black’s independent review of drugs did so much to articulate the challenges in this area. Her evidence and those of other experts to our inquiry make clear that a steely-eyed focus on investment in treatment and prevention from Government is required to improve the lives of those affected by drugs, and bring down their economic and social costs.
“As with our previous alcohol treatment services report, our Committee is having to remind Government that local authorities need long-term certainty to carry out what is some of the most challenging treatment there is to provide. Some progress has been made, in particular in recruiting 1,200 new alcohol and drug workers and bearing down on county lines drugs supply. But deaths continue to rise, drug use showed no reduction in the last 10 years, and the harm caused by illegal drugs is growing. The Government must now dig deep and prove that it is serious about delivering the long-term change implicit in its own strategy.”
For more information on this statement please contact us.