HL Deb 04 December 2002 vol 641 cc1135-8

2.43 p.m.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many residential drug treatment centres there are in England for people aged under 17.

Baroness Andrews

My Lords, there are currently two residential drug treatment centres in England exclusively providing services to people aged under 17. They provide intensive and specialised services for young people with complex needs, but the majority of young people who need drug treatment are supported by a range of other appropriate services.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. Is she aware that more and more people aged 15 and 16 are entering young offender institutions? It is much more difficult for them when they come out and are sucked back into the drug culture. Will she closely consider the matter and try to get some of the new money promised for young people? I am sure that everyone who has had teenage children will know that that is a difficult age group.

Baroness Andrews

Absolutely, my Lords. The Question is extremely timely. Young people leaving young offender institutions when they are over 18 have access to adult residential services—there are about 300 bed spaces. But if they are in juvenile accommodation because they are younger than that, it is felt that when they come out, unless they have exceptional needs, they are better supported in the community, where their parents can be supportive and they can receive intensive treatment.

The drugs update Statement made yesterday made it clear that young people are at the heart of our strategy and that the additional money to be made available during the next three years will go towards new services and treatment. The noble Baroness will want to know that some of that money will be spent on better after-care services.

Lord Williamson of Horton

My Lords, although I appreciate the points made by the Minister, will she tell us directly whether the number of drug rehabilitation centres is sufficient?

Baroness Andrews

My Lords, as I have said, it depends on the situation of young people—their needs, their family situation and whether they are vulnerable with complex needs. In some cases, especially those involving long-term drug addicts, residential accommodation is clearly appropriate. The question of whether provision is sufficient is always extremely difficult to answer. We do not have sufficient drug treatments. Part of the emphasis of the updated strategy published yesterday is to ensure that during the next three years double the current number of people enter treatment. Among the new provision will be residential accommodation.

Baroness Walmsley

My Lords, given that treatment in the community is so much cheaper because education is already provided, and in view of the increasing number and falling age of young people taking drugs—a report published this week states that 10 per cent of 11 year-olds are taking drugs—what additional resources do the Government intend to devote to alcohol education in schools and, in particular, to support and help for parents of children at risk, to help them to help those young people?

Baroness Andrews

My Lords, to deal first with parents, as a result of yesterday's Statement, we have a new communications strategy that will have at its focus informing and supporting parents and helping them to enable their children. That will be a three-year strategy. In addition, the Department for Education and Skills is consolidating educational guidance, so that it all sends the same message. I am sure that the noble Baroness knows that the alcohol strategy is at present the subject of consultation. When that is completed, by the middle of next year, we will know better how to use resources. Many children who abuse drugs are also alcohol abusers.

Baroness Massey of Darwen

My Lords, I must declare an interest as chair of the National Treatment Agency for substance misuse. My organisation and I appreciate the Government's concern for young people, but does my noble friend agree that many different drugs are involved, that each case must be treated individually and that residential care is not the only solution for treating drug use? Does she further agree that local co-ordination of treatment is key? How is that occurring and being improved?

Baroness Andrews

My Lords, I pay tribute to the work of the National Treatment Agency, which has been in existence for only 18 months but is making a terrific impact, and to my noble friend's work as chair of the NTA. Part of its major task is to improve coordination on the ground. We must face the fact that until about two years ago there was virtually no such co-ordination. Drug action teams had extremely variable standards of provision and action. The NTA has been able to bring guidance to bear on the DATs, so that there is now a much more even and optimistic prospect. Co-ordination is an issue across the whole field. Locally, we need more integration of children's services. Nationally, we need departments to work together, as they now plan to do as a result of the drug strategy.

My noble friend is right to say that residential care is not always the answer. Especially when focusing on vulnerable young children, many of whom have been in care, we need individual solutions.

Lord Taverne

My Lords, I welcome the general drift of government policy on the treatment of addicts. I also appreciate the difficulty of providing residential places for under-17s. Addicts under 17 are more expensive to treat than those over 17 because of the need to provide educational facilities.

I agree with the Minister that residential treatment is not the only effective treatment, but there are occasions on which residential treatment is important. There is a great shortage of places. Does not the situation call for a special capital grant to deal with such special cases?

Baroness Andrews

My Lords, one of the reasons for separating children and adults is that long-term, chronic addicts have different needs and different treatment modalities. We must make sure that we do not confuse treatment for children with the sort of things that we put in place for adults.

There is an additional £40 million for treatment for next year. By the end of the third year, there will be £98 million. It may well be that some of that money will be spent on capital building and residential treatment.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, does the Minister agree that young offender institutions are residential institutions? Therefore, many young people are in residential care. The local authorities do not want to pick up the bill; they pass it on to the Home Office.

Baroness Andrews

My Lords, we must bear in mind that the pooled budget that covers drug treatment, is, of course, ring-fenced and should be used only for that purpose. I would like to see an extension of inreach and outreach work in young offender institutions, so that those young people connect with the community when they come out. They must have appropriate treatment to bring them off drugs when they are in prison.

Earl Howe

My Lords, is the Minister aware that certain drug users are, in general, under-represented in drug treatment centres—for example, crack cocaine users, women and addicts from ethnic minorities? That point came out in yesterday's White Paper. What kind of strategies do the Government have in mind for targeting support on the groups that most need it?

Baroness Andrews

My Lords, clearly, crack is a problem. It is the one element of drug use that is increasing among young people. More young people are using it. In January, there was the first of a series of meetings on the development of a new strategy for crack and cocaine. That will be followed by new guidance. We are having a close look at what can be done urgently.

We have a problem with training professionals to work with black and ethnic minority users, who have specific needs. I am pleased to say that one of the things that the National Treatment Agency has done in the past few months is put forward a programme for training black and ethnic minority drugs workers. That will come into effect in April, and 50 people have already been recruited.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords—

Lord Grocott

My Lords, we are well into the seventeenth minute.

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