HL Deb 13 May 1996 vol 572 cc34-6WA
Baroness Masham of Ilon

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made in implementing the Tackling Drugs Together strategy.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch)

The Government's drugs strategy for England for the period 1995/98,Tackling Drugs Together, was published on 10th May 1995. While fully maintaining the emphasis on law enforcement and reducing supply, the strategy recognises the need for stronger action on reducing the demand for illegal drugs. Separate action is under way in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, consistent with the strategy for England, but tailored to the particular circumstances in those countries.

Forty-nine tasks were set for government departments and statutory agencies in implementing the strategy during 1995/96. All have been undertaken and, where appropriate, completed. In particular:

all police forces are publishing drugs strategies which combine law enforcement, demand reduction and partnership measures;

research into the nature and incidence of drug related crime is under way;

HM Customs and Excise has reviewed its anti-drugs effort, and resources allocated to its investigation and intelligence work have been increased;

the National Criminal Intelligence Service has reviewed its operations and is working more closely with the police and Customs;

co-operation between the police and Customs has been enhanced, with performance indicators set for 1996/97 covering the full range of drugs law enforcement and, for the first time, a joint press conference announced collective results in 1995;

each probation service is developing a drugs strategy in line with guidance from the Home Office and Association of Chief Officers of Probation;

all prison establishments have developed local drugs strategies—focusing on supply control, demand reduction and treatment—in line with the national strategy, using trained multi-disciplinary teams of staff;

mandatory drug testing has been successfully implemented in all prison establishments;

a first phase of drug treatment pilot schemes, involving 22 prisons, has been introduced;

practical guidelines for local criminal justice drug prevention programmes have been issued for consultation—six collaborative projects are putting the guidelines into practice;

funding of £5.9 million has delivered 16 innovative drug education projects and enhanced teacher training;

guidance on managing drug-related incidents and drug education has been sent to all schools, with local policies being developed accordingly;

information about drug education teaching materials and resources has been made available to schools;

the Office for Standards in Education is monitoring the response by schools and others, including specific studies of drugs education and the contribution of the youth service to drugs prevention;

consultations with further and higher education bodies have been undertaken to encourage effective prevention, counselling and support services;

a three-year national publicity campaign targeted at young people and parents run by the Health Education Authority, costing £5 million a year, has been launched;

an increasing number of private companies have become involved in working nationally and locally on drugs prevention;

£1.1 million has been used on 40 projects for early intervention services for young people at risk of drug misuse;

a review of substance misuse services for young people has been published by the Health Advisory Service;

the consultation phase on improving the health and safety of young people at clubs and other venues is nearing completion;

a four-year work programme has been agreed for the Drugs Prevention Initiative;

the 24-hour free national drugs helpline service has answered 192,755 calls in its first year;

a national drugs information strategy is being developed, in consultation with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and other bodies;

the Effectiveness Review on effective and appropriate treatments reported to Ministers and has now been published, with work in hand to provide guidance to purchasers in the light of the review and other recent findings;

shared care arrangements for drug misusers between primary and secondary health care providers have been reviewed by all health authorities;

contacts have been made with medical and nursing professional and statutory bodies to improve staff training and education.

At regional and local level, the main action has been the establishment of 105 Drug Action Teams across England, and their local community networks (Drug Reference Groups). All teams were established by 30th September 1995, and we agreed all their action plans for 1996–97 and 1997–98 by the beginning of April. Every team comprises senior professionals from the relevant health and local authorities, and police probation, and (where appropriate) prison services. Some teams also include voluntary sector, business and Customs representatives. All are seeking to encourage these and other groups to engage in practical work to tackle drug misuse on the ground. A digest of examples, drawn from the first action plans, has been published to help on this.

To assist in assessing the effectiveness of the strategy as it develops, baseline information on the key performance indicators set out in Tackling Drugs Together is now being collected. The significance of these indicators—and others locally—will be their trends over time. But the immense commitment to tackling drug misuse which has been shown across the country—especially amongst Drug Action Teams—is already very encouraging. The Government will continue to support this work as a high priority, both through the Central Drugs Co-ordination Unit and in other ways.