Tackling problem drug use - Public Accounts Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

1.  The Government spends £1.2 billion a year on measures aimed at tackling problem drug use, yet does not know what overall effect this spending is having. We welcome the Department's commitment to evaluating this spending. From 2011, the Department should publish annual reports on progress against the strategy's action plan. These should set out expenditure on each measure, the outputs and outcomes delivered, and progress towards targets.

2.  Around one-quarter of problem drug users are hard-core offenders who resist measures to reduce their offending or 'drop out' of drug treatment. The Department's action plan should set out specific measures directly aimed at driving down offending by hard-core problem drug users for whom the Drug Interventions Programme and drug treatment does not work.

3.  Problem drug users typically relapse several times into further drug use and offending during and after drug treatment. The Department should introduce evidence-based measures to reduce the risk of relapse into drug use and offending. It should identify and implement support measures to enable people to reintegrate into their home environments while resisting temptations and pressures to return to drug use and offending.

4.  Despite local authorities spending £30 million on housing support for problem drug users in 2008-09, up to 100,000 drug users in England continue to have a housing problem. While accommodating drug users is concerning to those living nearby, evidence shows that by providing them with stable accommodation as part of their rehabilitation programme they are more likely to stop offending. However, there is currently no evidence on the effectiveness of the different measures being used to accommodate problem drug users. It is important that evidence is obtained quickly to establish which housing measures are most effective.

5.  Some problem drug users quickly relapse into drug use and reoffending when released from prison. In some intensive Drug Interventions Programme areas, drug key workers meet up to 80% of those prisoners who have received drug treatment in prison at the prison gate to escort them directly to community and treatment services. The strategy should evaluate the impact of this approach in reducing relapse and reoffending rates and the costs and benefits of applying this more widely.

6.  Measures to reduce problem drug use by young people have had limited impact. The Department should include reliable and consistent estimates of the number of new young problem drug users each year in its annual report on progress against the strategy. It should evaluate the effectiveness of measures aimed at reducing problem drug use by young people, including long-term residential care services, and should set targets to bring down the overall number of problem drug users, over time.

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Prepared 7 April 2010