Crackdown is useless without funding treatment services, warns Abbott
A NEW government strategy on illicit use of drugs is meaningless without new funding to carry it out, Labour said yesterday.
Responding to the launch of the plans, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said that an effective strategy to tackle the dangers of drug misuse is long overdue — but that the government’s proposal is not good enough.
The Home Office is making a fresh attempt to crack down on a new wave of substances such as former legal highs and “chemsex drugs” — the latter including crystal meth, GHB/GBL and mephedrone for facilitating sexual activity.
New psychoactive substances (NPS) such as synthetic cannabis Spice — which has been linked to increased violence and dependancy in prisons — will also come under the strategy. NPSes were recently legal until laws banning their use and distribution were introduced earlier this year.
The scheme has more of a focus on rehabilitation than previous strategies, however drug charities expressed concerns that budget cuts would affect it actually being carried out.
Ms Abbott said: “Rising drug-related fatalities, drug crime and a cocktail of new drugs means that a new effective strategy is overdue. But this isn’t it. “Commitments to treat addiction and tackle the social ills that accompany it are meaningless from a government which has cut drug treatment services and centres. There is no new money now.
“At the same time, this Tory government expects law enforcement agencies to deal with multiple new drugs and sources of supply, but has spent seven years slashing funding to the police and border force with further cuts in the pipeline.
“Warm words won’t tackle the drugs crisis. Resources are needed, and mustn’t be diverted from other hard-pressed budgets.”
The government’s plan also includes promises to help those recovering from addiction to find adequate housing, employment and mental health services, with health checks every six months to check they are drug-free.
It also wants to offer “support” for prison officers to play a bigger role in the recovery process of drug offenders, but the Tories have cut thousands of their jobs too.
Martin Powell, head of campaigns at the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, was also sceptical of the strategy.
He said: “It won’t protect young people and communities because it is the same failed old recipe of criminalisation and under-funding that has led to record numbers of vulnerable people dying.”
Fewer than one in 10 adults in England and Wales take drugs, according to the Home Office, but drug-related deaths have risen sharply.