Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda


Submitted by Mary Glover

  I am Mary Glover, MSc BSc CQSW and I am a Social Worker at the Community Alcohol and Drugs Advisory Service, 28 High Street, Dorchester, Dorset. Tel 01305 265635. My comments are personal and not necessarily representative of my agency.

  I have worked for Social Services since 1976. Since qualification I have spent five years in a child protection team, and seven years in the drug team at CADAS.

  I am working in the treatment field, working mainly with parents who are opiate dependent. I don't feel that the Government's Drug Policy is working well in this particular area and I have the following concerns:

  We "know" that the way opiate dependent people achieve success (in that they reduce the harm they are doing, or that they become abstinent) is through long term treatment which involves a holistic approach—support, counselling, practical help, liaison with housing, benefits, CAB, probation etc, alongside monitoring and giving advice about child care issues.

  However this approach is greatly under pressure through the need to "manage the numbers". The medical model is on the increase, with nurses trained to do little other than monitor blood pressures and not deal with the underlying complexities of substance misuse, or address the multitude of social and psychological drug-related problems which have accrued over the years.

  This isn't just another rant about the issue of nurses v social workers (because of course there any many experienced nurses who work holistically and in a person-centred way with their clients and social workers who do not), but it IS a rant against taking the simplistic medical model as the way to get people through the system as quickly as possible. It just doesn't work. People forced to complete short term detoxes, who aren't at the appropriate stage in their drug use and commitment to change, and without any accompanying therapeutic help, have no chance of success. Then, having "failed" they are told that they have to wait a number of months before they are allowed to try again. My team have not yet started this but there are feelings of pressure building up to do this.

  It is important that people feel they are involved in their treatment choice. This is the way to gain people's commitment to their treatment. We have very few treatment options—but in other areas there is a far greater variety of treatments. Also, GP's interpret the DOH guidelines differently—some prescribing, some not. This inconsistency is totally unfair.

  Needle Exchanges are crucial, and the local policies are critical. The UK has done extremely well in managing the potential crisis with HIV/AIDS. Now of course we also have to consider hepatitis B & C, and not enough people are able to access needles. Rules such as having to give a used needle back to obtain a clean one, don't work for really chaotic drug users. Achieving returns should remain secondary to the fundamental priority aim of ensuring that those who need needles receive them.

September 2001

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