Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda


Submitted by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council


  1.1  The Council has been asked to submit its comments and views on the effectiveness of the Government's National Ten Year Drug Strategy to the Local Government Association who will then present a composite report to the House Affairs Select Committee.

  1.2  This report brings together all of the comments and views expressed by the Drug Action Team, The Community Safety Partnership, the Pre-Executive Overview and Scrutiny Committees for Health Improvement, Community Safety and Social Inclusion, the Council Executive (Cabinet) and the ruling Labour Group for the consideration of the Home Affairs Select Committee. The elected members of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council would welcome a Royal Commission into the effectiveness of the National Drugs Strategy.

  1.3  An abridged version of the findings has been sent to the LGA along with this more comprehensive report.


  2.1  There are four Strategic Targets that make up the National Drug Strategy. They are:

    (i)  Young People;

    (ii)  Communities;

    (iii)  Treatment; and

    (iv)  Availability.

  2.2  This report will take each of the above targets and put them in the local context.


  3.1  The Key Performance Target relating to young people is:

    To reduce the proportion of young people under 25 using illegal drugs in the last month and previous year substantially, and reduce the proportion of young people using the drugs which cause the greatest harm; heroin and cocaine by 50 per cent by 2008 and by 25 per cent by 2005.

  3.2  Clearly this is a laudable target but difficult to measure. Do we know everybody in this given age group who is currently using cocaine or heroin? Approximations can be reached through users who access Drug Support services, the Probation Service or who come into contact with the justice system. The Home Affairs Committee may wish to ask how the percentages in the Target were arrived at and which young people are we targeting in order to meet the target.

  3.3  The Strategy guidance encourages all schools to have drugs education policies. All the schools in Redcar and Cleveland have a policy which has been delivered in conjunction with the Tees-Wide Drug Education Team.

  3.4  The DAT is involved in a number of prevention initiatives in conjunction with partners such as Health and the commercial radio station, TFM. It is difficult to measure how successfully the prevention message is received but the events organised for young people are always well attended.

  3.5  The Strategy guidance says that the Government intended to create a Drugs Prevention Board to, "improve coordination of activity and to take forward joint national commissioning of effective prevention and education". The Home Affairs Committee may wish to pose the question, "Where is the Drugs Prevention Board?"

  3.6  The guidance also says that the Government want to develop a programme of action to reduce misuse of Class A drugs—particularly heroin and cocaine. In Redcar and Cleveland, there are supervised methadone swallowing facilities, and an innovative General Practice in Grangetown which is exclusively for drug users and their families. This is proving successful and the Practice reached its targets for patient numbers within its first six weeks. This is an invaluable resource in a Borough where many GPs refuse to treat drug users; the Home Affairs Committee may wish to address this issue with the appropriate medical authority.

  3.7  There is a link between prostitution and heroin use, especially among under age boys and girls. The Home Affairs Committee may wish to give this issue further consideration.

  3.8  Elected Members of the Council believe that drug education should start very early in the primary school years, because there is evidence locally to show children as young as 11 years old are taking heroin.


  4.1  The Key Performance Target for communities is—

    "To reduce levels of repeat offending amongst drug misusing offenders by 50 per cent by 2008 and 25 per cent by 2005".

  4.2  In line with the guidance, there is an Arrest Referral Officer in Redcar and Cleveland whose services arrestees can call upon. The Arrest Referral Scheme is totally voluntary, and those who take advantage of it can go into treatment programmes or rehabilitation. Rehabilitation fails for many users because they come out of the programme clean, only to return to the environment and friends where the temptation to resume drug taking often proves too powerful to resist. The Home Affairs Committee may wish to consider this when examining the issues prior to making their recommendations.

  4.3  The further use of Drug Treatment and Testing Orders is recommended in the guidance. This is very interesting given the results of the three pilot projects run in Croydon, Liverpool and Gloucester. In his special report for, "The Guardian" (15 June 2001) entitled, "Drugs in Britain", Nick Davies said that only 27 of the 210 offenders who took part in the pilots "seemed to emerge drug free". This figure was arrived at by overlooking cannabis use and the fact that only 13 offenders passed the final urine tests. Furthermore those offenders who said they had cut their spending on drugs by 94 per cent had been failing their urine tests throughout the pilots. They had failed 42 per cent of their heroin tests, 45 per cent of cocaine tests and 58 per cent of methadone tests. These figures do not lead one to think that the DTTOs work. The Home Affairs Committee may wish to ask Paul Boateng MP, the Minister responsible for rolling out the DTTOs why he saw fit to do so, given such discouraging results on the pilot schemes.

  4.4  Nick Davies argues that prohibition only serves to exacerbate the heroin problem and, by virtue of this, encourage repeat offending, as the drug trade is in the hands of the criminal. Heroin becomes highly dangerous in the hands of the criminal when it is cut for the black market created by prohibition. Heroin is cut with an assortment of products including cement dust, brick dust, talcum powder, gravy powder, sugar, starch and powdered milk. None of these were meant to be injected into veins and can lead to clots, gangrene and even amputation. This suffering, says Nick Davies, is not caused by the heroin, but by the black market adulterants. The Home Affairs Committee may wish to explore the prescribing of heroin by GPs in a clinical environment as a measure against the black market, criminal control of that market and the crime generated to buy drugs in that market.

  4.5  During the debate on this issue, some elected members suggested that the Home Affairs Committee may wish to explore a pilot scheme that will legalise and license heroin to be sold at recommended retail outlets.


  5.1  The Key Performance Target under this heading is:

    "To increase the participation of problem drug users, including prisoners, in treatment programmes that have a positive impact on health and crime by 100 per cent by 2008 and 66 per cent by 2005"

  5.2  There are issues within this section of the report that overlap with each other. For instance in the case of treatment, it is an issue that some GPs will not treat users. It is also an issue that Rehabilitation does not work for many of those who try it.

  5.3  The Redcar and Cleveland Drug Action Team has established its Treatment Programme, and the partners are working well together. Under the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund a comprehensive range of treatment packages have been designed and approved, and there is optimism that they will have a positive effect on the drug problem across the Borough. The Borough's Neighbourhood Renewal Fund has as its main themes Employability, Health and Community Safety and there are obvious links between all three. Joining up the HAZ programmes has also been done and the approach to the drugs issue is coordinated and measured. Given the scale of the problem, the Home Affairs Committee may recommend that the Government make more resources available to the agencies working with drugs, rather than make the funding subject to a bidding process.

  5.4  Addiction is an illness. We treat illnesses in a medical context through medication, counselling and psychological support. The Home Affairs Committee may want to consider whether or not the Penal system or punitive measures such as the afore mentioned DTTOs are the best way to treat addiction.

  5.5  The Home Affairs Committee have been asked elsewhere in this report to consider the prescribing of heroin by GPs for drug users, and the establishment of General Practices that cater for drug users and their families. The Committee may also wish to investigate the worth of the following treatment packages:

    —  Development of drop in facilities in the community

    —  Use of the "Opium Block" medication

    —  The appointment of Neighbourhood-based Drug Support Workers, not necessarily clinicians.

  5.6  Some drug users use their time in prison to come off drugs. The CARATS system is aiming to support offenders when they leave prison, and help them to remain drug free. The Home Affairs Committee may wish to consider recommending more resources into the CARATS system; they may also want to recommend a "New Deal" type programme that trains offenders for work whilst in prison, and finds them work to go to on their release.

  5.7  There was some discussion about the quality of medical support for users while they are in prison. The Home Affairs Committee are asked to investigate how the quality of treatment in prisons can be improved.

  5.8  Local experience shows that Methadone is not proving effective in helping users to give up heroin. In fact, many users take heroin "on top" of their methadone script which defeats the object. The Home Affairs Committee are asked to recommend the use of more effective alternatives to methadone, even if they are more expensive.


  6.1  The Key Performance Target under this heading is:

    "Reduce access to all drugs among young people under 25 significantly, and reduce access to the drugs which cause the greatest harm, particularly heroin and cocaine, by 50 per cent by 2008 and by 25 per cent by 2005."

  6.2  Enforcement is at the heart of reducing availability. The illicit drugs market drives a lot of crime locally, and the Police are committed to reducing availability in line with the National Drug Strategy and the Local Policing Plan.

  6.3  Recovering drugs from large scale dealers is not as straightforward as it might first appear. Big dealers have sophisticated methods for procuring and supplying the drugs, and they rarely have significant quantities of drugs on their person or at their home. There have been successful seizures of drugs in Redcar and Cleveland that have come about as a result of well planned operations based on intelligence gathering and deploying considerable resources. These operations take time to put in place and cannot be mounted at a moment's notice. Such operations also require staff and resources to be taken from other parts of the Police district, which subsequently suffer as a result.

  6.4  The Government has made funding available under the "Communities Against Drugs" for enforcement programmes. Drugs are such an issue in our communities that the Government may wish to consider how they fund Police activities on drugs.

  6.5  Prohibition of drugs, as previously stated in this paper, puts the drug market in the hands of the criminal. If heroin were prescribed to users and the heroin problem was treated in a medical context, then the bottom would fall out of the illicit drug market and there would be a significant decrease in levels of acquisitive crime.

  6.6  The prohibition-based approach to drugs does not appear to be working. In fact the Chief Constable of Cleveland, in a Police Authority report on drugs states, "there is overwhelming evidence to show that the prohibition-based policy in place since 1971 has not been effective in controlling the availability of prescribed drugs. If there is indeed a `war of drugs' it is not being won".

  The Home Affairs Committee may wish to consider this view, and find out how widely held this view is nationally.

  6.7  Police Forces throughout England and Wales are all tackling the problems of drugs and drug-related crime. The Home Affairs Committee may explore how Police Forces can most effectively share best practice on reducing availability.

  6.8  The National Drugs Strategy concentrates on heroin and cocaine as the drugs that cause the greatest harm and this is certainly the case regarding heroin in Redcar and Cleveland. However, the elected members would like the Home Affairs Committee to consider Ecstasy in the same category given the recent deaths from the drug in the Tees Valley.


  7.1  As stated at the beginning of this paper, the Council are being asked to contribute to the Home Affairs Committee debate on whether the existing drug policy works. This paper asks the Home Affairs Committee to consider the following:

    (i)  how were the percentages in the Key Performance Target relating to young people arrived at?;

    (ii)  where is the Drug Prevention Board that was to be set up in 1999-2000?;

    (iii)  why should GPs refuse to treat drug users?;

    (iv)  the link between underage prostitution and drug use;

    (v)  rehabilitation often fails because the person returns to the same environment and circumstances;

    (vi)  the prescribing of heroin by GPs to users;

    (vii)  make funding for drugs work central and not subject to bidding;

    (viii)  more resources for CARATS and employment opportunities for users and offenders on release from prison;

    (ix)  why are DTTOS being rolled out when they failed to do what they set out to do? Paul Boateng MP should address the Committee on this issue;

    (x)  other treatment packages such as Opium Block, Drop In facilities in the community and Neighbourhood Based Drug Support Workers;

    (xi)  how many Police Forces and agencies believe the prohibition-based policy is not working;

    (xii)  drug education should be targeted at very young children;

    (xiii)  pilot the licensing and legislation of heroin to be sold at recommended retail outlets;

    (xiv)  the Home Affairs Select Committee are asked to consider Ecstasy in the same category as heroin and cocaine given recent deaths;

    (xv)  improve the quality of treatment for users in prison;

    (xvi)  use more effective alternatives to methadone (they do exist but are more expensive);

    (xvii)  organise the sharing of information on best practice to reduce availability between Police Force areas; and

    (xviii)  community-based support for users is crucial to their rehabilitation.

September 2001

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