Tackling problem drug use - Public Accounts Committee Contents

1  The Drug Strategy and drug-related crime

1. Research covering the 2003-04 period estimated that problem drug use costs society over £15 billion a year. Of this figure, £13.9 billion is the estimated annual cost of drug related offending, consisting mainly of acquisitive crimes committed by problem drug users such as theft and burglary, to feed their drug habit.[2] The Department reported that up to half of acquisitive crime, primarily burglary, theft and similar crimes, is drug related.[3] It had defined problem drugs as opiates (mainly heroin) and crack cocaine, as most drug related crime was related to their use.[4] It estimated that there were around 330,000 problem drug users in England, and considered that the numbers were stable over time.[5] The Department told us that it did not categorise people taking powder cocaine as problem drug users as they were far less likely to commit crimes to feed their drug habit.[6]

2. In 2008, the Government introduced a new 10-year Drug Strategy which aimed to "reduce the harm that drugs cause to society, to communities, individuals and their families".[7] It gave the Department overall responsibility for overseeing and coordinating the strategy, and a number of other government departments and agencies, at national, regional and local levels shared responsibility for delivering it.[8]

3. In 2009-10, total Government expenditure to deliver the measures in the strategy was £1.2 billion. Annual funding was expected to stay broadly constant for the three-year duration of the first action plan. Neither the drug strategy, nor the supporting action plan for 2008-2011, set out a framework to evaluate the actions and measures put forward, or defined the extent to which they were expected to reduce the harm from problem drug use.[9]

4. The Department told us that it now accepted the need for an overall framework to evaluate the £1.2 billion expenditure.[10] The Department also accepted that it had not carried out sufficient evaluation of the whole programme of measures to deliver the drug strategy, although it had evaluated individual areas of expenditure, including drug treatment and the Drug Interventions Programme.[11] While these accounted for large elements of total expenditure, there were a number of gaps in other areas of expenditure and it had not evaluated the degree of co-operation between agencies.[12] The Department had agreed to put together a framework for evaluation, with publication of the first results in late 2011-early 2012.[13]

5. The Department said that it did not know whether the strategy had reduced the £13.9 billion cost of crimes committed by problem drug users and it could not prove a causal link between the measures in the strategy and the levels of offending by problem drug users.[14] The Department had not updated its estimate of the costs of problem drug use since a 2006 publication, which estimated costs for 2003-04.[15]

2   C&AG's Report, para 1.5 Back

3   Q 3 Back

4   Qq 38 and 40 Back

5   Qq 62 and 63 Back

6   Q 40 Back

7   http://drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk/drug-strategy/index.html Back

8   C&AG's Report, para 1.18 Back

9   C&AG's Report, para 1.11 Back

10   Qq 1 and 60 Back

11   Q 59 Back

12   Q 1 Back

13   Qq 60 and 76 Back

14   Q 27 Back

15   Home Office, Measuring different aspects of problem drug use: methodological developments 2006, The economic and social costs of Class A drug use in England and Wales, 2003/04 http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk Back

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Prepared 7 April 2010