A whole-system approach to tackle the blight of drug abuse

By Eddie Hughes | 07 December 2021

Before I became an MP, I was lucky enough to have a leading role at YMCA Birmingham, which opened my eyes to the lives of those sleeping rough.

During those years, I saw every day the selfless and tireless dedication of people who spend their lives trying to improve the wellbeing of those who find themselves living on the streets.

That experience reinforced my long-held view that one homeless person is one too many and left me with an even stronger determination to tackle homelessness.

This Government is serious about ending rough sleeping. To achieve this, we must not just focus on its visible symptoms, but also address the root causes: for many rough sleepers, drug dependency is both.

We must also work closely with local authorities. Councils are the engine rooms that deliver the change necessary to tackle the causes of homelessness.

I’m therefore delighted that the government has this week launched a 10-Year Drugs Strategy.

The first of its kind, it will deliver a whole-system approach, backed by record investment to tackle the blight of drug abuse head-on at every stage.

For example, we know that people who have housing issues are less likely to do well in treatment for drug addiction. As part of the strategy, we will be providing £53 million for housing support options for people in treatment, ensuring they can remain in secure and safe housing to assist with their recovery.

The strategy will be building on work the Government and local authorities are already doing to help rough sleepers with drug problems turn their lives around.

This winter, we have given more than 60 councils a share of up to £52 million from our Drug and Alcohol Treatment Grant scheme this year.

This funding will help deliver specialist support for rough sleepers and those at risk of sleeping rough, including one-to-one mentoring.

We previously allocated £23 million, which has not only helped those personally fighting drug and alcohol dependency but is benefiting their friends, families and communities, who are also impacted by the consequences of substance misuse.

Forward Leeds is funding a street-based psychologist to refer rough sleepers to mental health and substance misuse services, as well as a drop-in clinic in the city centre which provides specialist support.

Through the Westminster Rough Sleepers Drug and Alcohol Service, we are funding access to treatment programmes for rough sleepers before helping them into education, employment, or training.

And Southampton Substance Use Disorder Services have used our grants to recruit more staff to support those with complex needs and substance misuse issues. They also have a clinical psychologist making sure those with mental health issues get the support they need.

Through projects such as these and our new Drugs Strategy, the Government and local services can work together to stop drugs reaching the streets, support people in insecure housing before they become homeless, and offer more support to break the cycle of addiction.

Eddie Hughes MP is Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing

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