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Written Statement - Substance Misuse Review Programme

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Carl Sargeant, Minister for Local Government and Communities

Community Safety is a high public priority and one that can affect the quality of life for individuals and entire communities.  The Welsh Government has worked with our partners to make great strides in tackling the blight of drug and alcohol misuse in Wales.  Locally, we have established and empowered Community Safety Partnerships and more latterly Area Planning Boards to tackle substance misuse in their areas and have supported them with significant increases in funding to commission services and tackle local problems.  Nationally, we have established an all Wales educational programme and commissioned innovative services to tackle the needs of particular groups, such as offenders and young substance misusers.  Together, we have increased the number of people receiving treatment and contributed towards a reduction in the harm caused by illegal drugs.

‘Working Together to Reduce Harm’ was launched in 2008, and is the Welsh Government’s 10 year strategy for tackling the harms associated with the misuse of drugs, alcohol and other substances in Wales.  This strategy sets out a clear national agenda for how we and our partners can tackle and reduce the harms associated with substance misuse in Wales.  Following its initial three year period of operation (2008-2011), it is appropriate to consider whether areas of the existing strategy should be reviewed.  Therefore, I have asked officials to undertake a comprehensive review into what has been achieved in this area under the existing Strategy and to determine whether it has been delivered in the most effective and efficient way.  

In line with my previous statement on the move towards a Regional Footprint for Wales in Summer 2011, the review will also involve scrutiny of the governance structures in place and the opportunities for partnership rationalisation and simplification to ensure delivery mechanisms are fit for purpose and capable of regional collaboration and coherence.  In addition, the Review will include an investigation into the funding mechanisms to put in place improvements to encourage regionally strategic decisions and explore the potential for further aligning to provide a more transparent and simplified funding model.

The Programme for Government, launched in September 2011, also identified specific and measurable indicators for delivering improvements in the Substance Misuse area and others within the auspices of Community Safety that aligned with the existing Substance Misuse Strategy.  

All of these events combined provided a catalyst for bringing together all of the areas to be reviewed under one Substance Misuse Review Programme and accelerating some of the timescales for delivery.  The Substance Misuse Review Programme will look into what has been achieved in this area over the last three years under the existing Strategy and determine whether it has been delivered in the most effective and efficient way.  This will involve scrutiny of the national governance structures and local delivery mechanisms and the associated funding models.  Research has also been commissioned to provide a baseline of evidence and data.

The findings of the Review Programme will hopefully provide the opportunities for increased clarity around the delivery landscape at a national and local level and an easily understandable funding model.  This, in turn, should translate into better outcomes and benefits for individual service users and the wider communities.  Thus, allowing positive engagement with treatment and recovery programmes and a better and more productive integration and contribution to society.  It is my intention, that this review will be the first phase of a wider and longer term evaluation of the fit and alignment of other key areas within the Community Safety arena, namely Domestic Abuse and Youth Justice.  

One area of the review, looking at the Area Planning Boards, has already provided a set of recommendations, which have been endorsed by the Substance Misuse Review Programme and approved by myself.  The implementation of these recommendations will mean a strengthened and enhanced role for Area Planning Boards supported by a clear governance framework and a regional distribution of the Substance Misuse Action Fund, from April 2012, through the seven Boards across Wales to ensure more strategic and collaborative decision making and commissioning of services.

Throughout the review process, I will continue to provide Members, key stakeholders and partner organisations with updates on progress and delivery and my officials will be working with relevant organisations on the specific details of implementation of any changes that are to be introduced as a result of the review.  In turn, I am expecting those organisations to work positively with my officials to ensure that any changes that are agreed over the next few months, or as part of a transitional period over the next year, are delivered as smoothly as possible, so as to minimise the risk of de-stabilising any part of the public services in this area.