Drug & Alcohol services face £1m cut

Thursday, February 6th, 2020 3:22pm

By Jenny Bonson & Joe Burn, Local Democracy Reporter @newsjenny

Concerns have been raised about a rise in crime and anti-social behaviour, if a £1 million cut to some support services at Stoke-on-Trent City Council goes ahead.

The authority says it is reviewing contracts for its drug and alcohol services, as part of budget proposals aimed at saving £9.2 million to balance its books.

Councillor Mohammed Pervez, leader of the Labour group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council, voiced the concerns over the proposals.

Cabinet member Lorraine Beardmore explained the cut to the adults and neighbourhoods scrutiny committee.

She said: “There’s a right and proper review needed for the contracts that we have got for drug and alcohol services and stop smoking services.

“In drug and alcohol,we are having poor outcomes with those that we are helping. That needs addressing.

“With the stop smoking service, people are stopping smoking in different ways. We should be targeting people that are at risk, pregnant women and people with pre-existing health issues.”

Mr Pervez said: “The drug and alcohol service, if that is massively cut, there will be an impact elsewhere in terms of the rise in anti-social behaviour, crime and people becoming more and more dependent on drugs and alcohol. Not doing things properly is one thing, but then cutting that service totally is another.

“You’re trying to improve the service, but you’re saying, ‘improve it, or we’ll take £1 million away’.

“While it might not mean much to people at this moment in time, it will when the impact of this saving is realised and we start to get more people who are drunk and drug dependent and more people smoking and so on.

“We’ve that already cutting early intervention services such as children’s centres and so on, which has lead to 913 children in care. This is going in exactly the same direction, I fear.”

Fellow committee member Jean Bowers said: “For me, £1 million is quite adventurous.”

Council health director Paul Edmondson-Jones said: “We are highlighted as one of the highest spenders, but with one of the lowest outcomes. So we are not getting good value for money from the contract at the moment. Public Health England is highlighting us as being right up in the top group of where we spend on that service.”

Dr Edmondson-Jones told the committee that smoking cessation had been a ‘success story’ in the city, despite the number of smokers still being higher than the national average. He added that vaping had changed the way people stop smoking.

“The proportion that give up through the stop smoking service is very, very small,” he said.

A new ‘targeted’ stop smoking service could be created under the plans.

Healthwatch boss Simmy Akhtar said: “That is a lot of money that has been going to that service and it is frustrating that it has gotten to this point and now the money will most likely go.

“But we are not sure that the right model is going to be in place, yet again. It’s absolutely key that the city gets this model because substance misuse is not going away. It just feels like it’s growing. Once that money is gone, it’s not going to come back.”

The full budget proposals, including the opportunity to submit feedback online, are available at  http://stoke.gov.uk/budget2020.   

The budget consultation runs until Sunday, February 19. The budget will be put before full council for final approval on February 27.

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