Submitted by the London Drug Policy
1. The London Drug Policy Forum (LDPF) was
established in 1991 on the initiative of the Corporation of London
with funding from the Corporation and the Home Office to co-ordinate
London local authority policy and practice and to encourage joint
working. Since 1999, following establishment of the Drug Prevention
Advisory Service and withdrawal of Home Office financial support
it has been fully funded by the Corporation of London. It exists
to assist, support and advise policy makers on drug issues affecting
2. The LDPF comprises of elected Members
representing the Association of London Government and others who
have experience at a senior level of tackling drug related problems.
It is supported and advised by an Advisory Group consisting of
people working within the London area on drug-related topics (including
Drug Action Team Co-ordinators). It provides the LDPF with a range
of expertise and experience.
3. It also works closely with the 33 London
Drug Action teams. It provides them with a platform to discuss
issues of concern and a unique voice to ensure they are heard
by policy makers in both Local and Central Government.
4. London has a concentration of problematic
drug misusers and the problems associated with drug misuse. This
submission seeks to reflect the experience of those the LDPF works
with as regards the Government's drug policy.
5. Since the launch of Tackling Drugs Together
in 1995, followed in 1998 by the launch of the 10 year strategy
"Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain", very significant
levels of additional resources have been provided to improve treatment,
education and prevention. Equally welcome have been efforts to
improve co-operation and co-ordination at national and local level
(eg the creation of Drug Action Teams, and the UKADCU).
6. Progress has been made. There has been
an increase in the number accessing treatment servicesand
despite severe shortages of appropriately trained staff this is
an area where government targets may be achieved. Within the Young
People strand of the strategy there has been improvement as regards
drug education within the curriculum. The Arrest Referral Schemes
and Drug Treatment and Testing Orders, despite teething difficulties,
are helping individuals break the link between their drug problems
and crime. The increased focus of the Police and other law enforcement
agencies on the most damaging drugs and on those engaged in supply
offences is also a positive development.
7. Potentially the most important aspect
of the strategy is its support and development of partnership
and multi-agency working. Drug Action Teams are an obvious example
of this but there are others. The existing strategy has helped
overcome many institutional and cultural barriers, for example
between the Police and treatment service providers. There remains
room for improvement, but the benefits of these joint approaches
are worthy of acknowledgement.
8. Inevitably there are weaknesses. For
example in the strategic planning of the strategy, particularly
given its aspiration to be evidence based. Though significant
sums have been invested in research it has not effectively informed
policy development and practice. Some areas remain under-researched.
9. This is particularly evident as regards
education with its range of differing and conflicting approaches.
Three years into the strategy a longitudinal study to track the
impact of different interventions is still awaiting implementation.
In the treatment field there is a dearth of research supporting
those working with stimulant abusers, in particular crack cocaine.
10. There are also gaps in the strategy
that need addressing. For examples the lack of a specific target
to reduce drug-related deaths.
11. The failure to set in place a human
resource strategy is a very significant problem, which if not
tackled urgently will severely limit ability to achieve Government
targets. Expansion of treatment provision requires skilled workers
yet there is no central plan to help deliver them. Drug treatment,
needs, and deserves strengthening as a discipline in its own right,
not as an addition to Mental Health or other established subjects.
Central attempts to provide additional workers have been haphazard
and put stress upon already over-stretched DATs.
12. Many London DATs and other agencies
have vacancies in key positions. This problem impacts upon the
deliverability of Government targets and limits the benefits of
increased Government investment. In general mechanisms do not
exist to ensure investment reaches its intended targets.
13. A key to improvement would be greater
coherence at the heart of Government and stronger, consistent
leadership to help overcome remaining barriers between different
departments and agencies. At a Whitehall level the drugs agenda
is still insufficiently linked into wider social inclusion and
regeneration activities. More planning prior to major announcementseg
the creation of the National Treatment Agencywould improve
delivery on the ground. There needs to be an examination of whether
certain structures (eg within law enforcement agencies) hamper
effective tackling of drug related problems.
14. Many of the mechanisms required to deliver
the strategy are in placethough they remain fragile. They
need nurturing to allow them to deliver the support and services
to those who are effected by drugs and their associated problems.
15. Assessing the likely impact of decriminalisation
is a largely theoretical exercise. Comparisons to other nations
are of little benefit if we consider the impact of culture. For
example similar laws govern alcohol across Europe but the UK has
its own distinctive features around alcohol consumption. What
seems clear is that signals given about the perceived dangers
of drugs do have an impact on young people's willingness to experiment.
There is also strong evidence to suggest that for some of the
most vulnerable the illegality of a substance is a valued defence.
16. However, there clearly remains room
for improving and developing advice to Police and others in the
Criminal Justice System on the handling of individuals found in
possession of, or using, small quantities of illegal substances.
There is also a need to ensure that the Criminal Justice system
does not unnecessarily impede the work of those helping problematic
17. Recent medical studies highlight the
dangers of both short-term and long-term drug abuse.
18. The fundamental principles set out in
the strategy still enjoy widespread support amongst those working
across the drugs field. Though progress has been made there is
a need for Central Government to consider what changes in organisational
structures and cultural attitudes are still required to allow
the most effective impact on drug misuse and its associated problems.