This week the Government announced Local Authorities across England will be allocated almost £267 million next year to improve drug and alcohol treatment and recovery systems.
The funding is additional to the Public Health Grant, and is in line with the government’s 10-year drugs strategy ‘From Harm to Hope’. It builds on previous years’ allocations of £95.4 million in 2022 and £154.3 million in 2023. And unlike in previous years, the allocations for 2024 have been announced with sufficient run-in time to allow local authorities and providers to plan ahead appropriately – this timeline is to be welcomed.
This funding will go some way to supporting the transformation of the treatment and recovery system as called for in Dame Carol Black’s review of drug treatment. It should help to ensure as many people as possible get the treatment they need and receive the same level of care as those with other chronic health conditions.
However, we must recognise that a decade of disinvestment in our services and the erosion of wider support systems means there are long-standing problems that require long-term investment and planning. Chief among these is the question of how to build our workforce sustainably to ensure we have the right mix of skills and experience that boosts the quality of our services and tackles chronic issues around staff capacity and high caseloads. One-year funding cycles simply do not provide sufficient stability to address this issue.
We are also concerned by reports of the introduction of conditionality into grants for an (admittedly small) number of areas. These measures may yet prove to be more evidence of a lack of long-term thinking about the best way to improve the system, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.
NHS APA Chair, Danny Hames, commented: “As well as improving drug and alcohol treatment and recovery services, this funding will help reduce the stigma attached to addiction by helping to allow equal access to treatment. Addiction is a social issue underpinned by the toxic combination of exclusion, poverty, and trauma. Those affected must be treated fairly, justly, and with dignity.
“However, it must be acknowledged the allocation of funds for – yet again – just one year creates problems for our system. Longer-term financial clarity is essential if we are to harness our ability to collectively problem-solve and achieve the ambition of the 10-year drug strategy.
“This will allow us to plan for a significant and coordinated effort and continue levelling up the addiction sector, so it has parity with other mainstream health care services.”