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Drug Treatment And Testing Orders

Volume 405: debated on Thursday 22 May 2003

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What progress has been made in reducing the time between the issuing of a drug treatment and testing order and its implementation.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
(Mr. Bob Ainsworth)

There is a national standard requirement for the implementation of drug treatment and testing orders. It comprises two conditions: within one working day of the order being made, the offender should attend an appointment with the probation service; within two working days, contact should be established with a treatment provider. The latest DTTO figures show that 89 per cent. Of appointments are being kept. That compliance rate is more than 5 per cent. higher than it was over the preceding six months.

My supplementary question is probably more relevant to the Health Minister. Do Ministers recognise that NHS providers of drug treatment services are not responding quickly enough in some areas? They are not meeting this national standard to respond to the orders made by the courts.

Recently, in Reading Crown court, a heroin addict was sentenced to a drug treatment and testing order after committing more than 40 offences of burglary and criminal deception to fund his addiction. Do Ministers agree that it is nothing less than shocking that the local national health service treatment service told him to come back and start his course in four weeks, which triggered yet another drug fuelled mini-crime wave? Will they authorise a review of the failure of NHS service providers in that regard?

My hon. Friend is right. We face a problem: capacity in the drug treatment sector must be increased. We are starting from a low base, because that sector was not a high priority. Most of its capacity has come from very good voluntary sector providers, but they have not had the same of models of care, of standards and of work force development as other sectors. With the advent of the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, capacity in the sector is now growing at a fairly phenomenal rate. Our estimates for growth for this year have been exceeded, so people are beginning to see the drug field as a worthwhile place to work and somewhere to build a career.

We are building better occupational standards to provide good-quality treatment, but my hon. Friend is right that there is much more to do to ensure that people can receive good, high-quality treatment from day one. That is exactly what we plan to do. With the criminal justice intervention programme, we plan to provide a Rolls-Royce service. As soon as people are referred, whether as a result of arrest referrals or of DTTOs, they will be held in the system and they will have a personal adviser to guide them through it. Increasingly, we need not only to refer for treatment, but to retain people in treatment and see them successfully through the programme. I acknowledge that we have much more to do, but the system is substantially improved from what it was a short time ago.