Cuts to alcohol and drug services will damage city

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26 Feb 2018
by Neil Skinner

Proposed cuts to Nottingham’s drug and alcohol treatment and support services will put at risk the city’s reputation as a national leader in the sector and contribute to an inevitable rise in crime, hospital admissions and anti-social behaviour. 

Nottingham City Council is proposing to cut a further 20% (around £1million) from its annual budget for substance misuse services – a decision that would lead to the rationing of vital treatment and the dangerous erosion of an established and successful network of support.

The Council has announced plans to cut £27million from its 2018 / 19 budget to make up for a shortfall in Government funding, and has now launched a public consultation about proposed cuts to existing services. 

It is currently proposing to cut 20% annually (around £1million) from the four contracts it oversees for Adult Substance Misuse services. Currently these services (already subject to a 30% cut just five years ago) make up individual parts of a support and treatment system. That system offers holistic support to a wide range of people – from those merely concerned they may be over-indulging, to people with very chaotic and damaging addictions.

The four services that are currently commissioned by Nottingham City Council are: 

  • The Nottingham Recovery Network: a free, combined drug and alcohol treatment, support and education service for anyone in Nottingham
  • Clean Slate: a drug and alcohol support and rehabilitation service for adult offenders
  • The Health Shop: a sexual health advice and support centre, and needle exchange for injecting dug users
  • Hospital Alcohol Liaison Team (HALT): specialist visiting support for people in hospitals.

Together these services have proven themselves to be highly effective over the last few years. Nottingham currently has one of the most effective drug and alcohol support treatment in the country, and has the lowest rates of drug related deaths of all the core cities.

Framework, which delivers these services on behalf of the Council, currently delivers advice and support to around 20,000 people a year, and offers free expert advice and training to organisations. It is warning that these proposed additional cuts are unsustainable because they would:

  • Drastically reduce the number of people it could support
  • Reduce the time it can spend with people
  • Force it to focus on crisis response rather than on early intervention
  • Unpick a tried, tested and proven system of support that works for most people, and replace it with piecemeal services that work only for a minority.

Framework Operations Director Michael Leng said: “We understand the difficult situation Nottingham City Council are in and know that they are faced with a series of very unenviable choices, but we would urge them to do whatever they can to avoid causing irreparable damage to the city’s drug and alcohol treatment services.

“Nottingham’s current drug and alcohol treatment services are among the best and most effective in the country. What makes them so effective is their broad reach, and their focus on intervening as early as possible to give people the help and support they need – before their problems spiral out of control and have a detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing.

“We also go out of our way to bring help to people, rather than sitting back and waiting for them to come to us. We do that by being as open and available as possible, and by going out and engaging with people where they are. The cuts that are proposed will not only force us to drastically reduce the number of people we can help; they will also create barriers to engagement and make people less likely to get the support they need at an early stage.

“We should be proud of these services, and I fear these proposals will undo years of good work in our city and take a very heavy toll on public services. More people will end up in acute hospital environments as a result of their substance misuse; more people will be engage in antisocial behaviour; and more people will be arrested by the police and end up in the criminal justice system. I urge the council to think again about these proposals.”

The council is accepting public comments on its proposals until March 5, when elected members will vote on the budget. People who wish to respond to this consultation can do so by visiting https://www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/about-the-council/budget-consultation-201819/.

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