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Drugs Strategy

Volume 699: debated on Wednesday 27 February 2008

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson), the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) and I have today published the new 10-year drug strategy, Drugs—Protecting Families and Communities, which sets out the Government's objectives to tackle the harms caused by illegal drug use and actions that the Government and partners will take in meeting those objectives.

The strategy builds upon the existing 10-year strategy, which was published in 1998 and updated in 2002. In the 10 years since that strategy was published, we have seen some real success: drug-related crime has been cut by around 20 per cent; overall drug use, including young people's drug use, is at an 11-year low; an expanded treatment capacity has allowed us to exceed our target to double the number of users in treatment two years early, with over 195,000 users in treatment in 2006-07 compared to 85,000 in 1998; we have targeted those who commit crime to feed their addiction through compulsory drug testing on arrest; over 1,000 crack houses have been closed; and we have seized record amounts of drugs, disrupting and dismantling organised drug-trafficking groups.

In common with the earlier strategy, the new strategy seeks to balance tough enforcement action to tackle dealers, reduce crime and anti-social behaviour and to reduce the supply of drugs, with interventions to prevent drug use, to educate and intervene early and to reduce the demand for illegal drugs. The overarching aims are to grip existing drug users more firmly in treatment, increase the number of drug users re-establishing their lives and reduce the number of new problem drug users. It is focused on the drugs which cause the greatest harm to communities.

The strategy places a new focus on protecting families and on strengthening communities and, to support this new focus, is arranged around four strategic themes:

protecting communities through robust enforcement to tackle drug supply, drug-related crime and anti-social behaviour;

preventing harm to children, young people and families affected by drug misuse;

delivering new approaches to drug treatment and social reintegration; and

public information campaigns, communications and community engagement.

While the strategy will cover a 10-year period to 2018, its delivery will be underpinned by a series of three-year action plans, which will run concurrently with the spending review cycles. The first such action plan, for the period 2008-11, has been published alongside the strategy.

In reaching decisions which inform the actions the Government will take to tackle drug-related harm, we have taken into account responses to the public and stakeholder consultation conducted between July and October last year. Over 1,000 written responses were received and interviews were conducted with a wide range of consultees. A report of the consultation and summary of responses is also published today.

Key actions which are featured in the new strategy include:

identifying and targeting the drug-misusing offenders causing the greatest harm to communities, improving prison treatment programmes and increasing the use of community sentences with a drug rehabilitation requirement;

extending powers to seize the cash and assets of drug dealers, to demonstrate to communities that dealing does not pay;

embedding action to tackle drugs within the neighbourhood policing approach, to gather community intelligence, engage with and increase community confidence;

strengthening and extending international agreements to intercept drugs being trafficked to the UK;

focusing on families where parents misuse drugs, intervening early to prevent harm to children, prioritising parents' access to treatment where children are at risk, providing intensive parenting guidance and supporting family members, such as grandparents, who take on caring responsibilities;

developing a package of support to help people in drug treatment to complete treatment and to re-establish their lives, including ensuring local arrangements are in place to refer people from jobcentres to sources of housing advice and advocacy and appropriate treatment;

using opportunities presented by the benefits system to support people in reintegrating into communities and gaining employment, while exploring the case for providing more tailored support for people; and in return putting the responsibility on claimants to move successfully through treatment and into employment; and

piloting new approaches which allow more flexible and effective use of resources, including individual budgets to meet treatment and wider support needs.

Through this new drug strategy, and the work that will flow from it, we will continue to send a clear message that drug use is unacceptable; that we are on the side of communities; that we demand respect for the law and will not tolerate illegal or anti-social behaviour; but that we will provide help for those who are trying to turn their lives around, to get off drugs and into work, to ensure drug problems are not handed on to the next generation; and that we expect drug users themselves to take responsibility, and will help them to do so.

Copies of the strategy, its supporting action plan and of the consultation report are available in the House Library and on the Home Office website at www.drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk.