Standing Opposed to Cuts to Drug and Alcohol Services in Leicester

“Budget cuts to drug and alcohol services for young people are having a ‘devastating impact’ on the fight against substance abuse, according to leading health groups and charities [including DrugScope],” reported The Guardian in July 2011. The article pointed out that research published that year “by the DoE concluded that drug treatment for young people is cost effective, estimating that for every £1 spent on treatment between £5 and £8 is saved by the NHS and other agencies.”

But Government cuts to vital services continue apace, irrespective of the tragic social consequences that will accompany their wrecking-ball approach to welfare provision. Earlier this year DrugScope, the national membership organisation for the drug and alcohol sector, published, State of the Sector 2014 – 15, a report which highlighted the extent of cuts to such vital services.  The following month DrugScope was then forced to close down its operations owing to “a worsening financial situation”;  a loss that summed in The Guardian headline “DrugScope’s closure concerns us all and jeopardises the future of drug policy.”

One of DrugScope’s trustees was Debbie Lindsey, who is the chief operating officer of Blenheim, “a leading charity that helps people struggling with alcohol and substance misuse across London by providing accessible support and help to end their dependency.” This is interesting because just a few days ago Blenheim’s CEO, John Jolly, penned a hard-hitting blog post titled “It’s time to stand and fight.”

Mr Jolly pointed out how “Over the next 3 years, spending on drug and alcohol services is predicted by some officials to fall between 25% and 50%.” And in a powerful call to arms, he concluded his post writing:

“Unless Service User Groups and a powerful alliance of GP’s, NHS and third sector providers and charities are prepared to fight in the corridors of Whitehall and Westminster, and on the beaches of local authority cuts, I fear that the worlds best treatment system is about to be decimated in 2015/16. I fear for the people we help and I pray that I am wrong. It’s time to stand and fight.”

Remember that this tub-thumping post is coming from the boss of an organisation whose board of trustees includes many individuals who are firmly ensconced in the halls of power, including not least a former Director of the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. So if such well-heeled organisations are making such calls for action, then clearly something has gone amiss. But thankfully with quarter of million people recently protesting in the streets against our Government’s cruel austerity program, it is clear that more and more people are already joining the fight back.

Here in the Leicester destructive cuts to the budgets of local Drug and Alcohol Services have recently been “consulted on” — whatever that means — by our Labour Council. The reason for the consultation is because the city council is “exploring whether £1m could be saved from the overall substance misuse budget of £8.3m.” In response to the “consultation” they acknowledged that:

“Concerns were raised through the consultation about the possibility of a reduction in funding to substance misuse services and the likely re-tendering over the next 12 months and it’s impact on staff and delivery.”

Although the Council reassure us that…

“No decision has yet been made about the future shape of substance misuse services in Leicester. The responses and comments from the consultation have been analysed and will help us develop a model which will be subject to consultation over the summer.”

Certainly our timid Labour Council is not committed to fighting Government cuts to funding, and so no doubt is using the entire consultation process to make it appear that they are concerned about what the public think, so they can pretend that they might not make the cuts. That is why we need to do as much as possible to bring pressure to bear upon our Labour Council before they slash another £1 million from our city’s vital public services.

For the time being, sign the online petition found here in order to call upon our Council not to trash our local Drug and Alcohol Services: https://www.change.org/p/leicester-city-council-stop-the-threatened-cut-of-1m-from-the-budgets-of-local-drug-and-alcohol-services

Then share it will all your friends, and see if any of them want to get involved in the ongoing campaign to oppose all threatened cuts to public services in Leicester.

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