Labour MP Dan Carden led calls for the extra funding in Rishi Sunak’s Budget 2021, as he believes every £1 spent on addiction treatment will save the Chancellor at least £3 in crime and health expenditure
Image: Liverpool Echo)
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under mounting pressure to increase funding for drug treatment services so Brits have a “pathway out of addiction”.
Dan Carden, Labour MP for Liverpool Walton has led a campaign backed by Tory Peers and MPs to make treatment accessible for everyone across the country, regardless of where they live.
Currently, Mr Carden says access to addiction treatment and recovery is a “post code lottery”.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, backed by Kate Middleton’s charity Forward Trust, he called for an investment of £1.78billion over the next five years to be announced in the Budget, as set out by Dame Carol Black’s Independent Review of Drugs.
Mr Carden also recieved support from 60 cross-party MPs and Peers including Crispin Blunt, Lord Mancroft – who has previously spoken out about his own substance abuse struggles – and Baroness Chakrabarti.
The 34-year-old MP from Liverpool told the Mirror: “My experience tells me there is no pathway for people suffering addiction. That needs to be created. My first experience was he was in an AA meeting, and I got therapy, which I paid for myself.
“Most of my constituents can’t afford to pay those types of fees themselves and I know it works. I know the impact that it has, and I just am going to keep fighting until this is something that is provided for everyone because it saves lives, and it stops so much misery.”
Earlier this year, Mr Carden fought back tears as he told how alcohol addiction had nearly killed him twice in a powerful Commons speech.
He spoke of the “daily denials” and “constant fear of being found out” for his sexuality when he was growing up, and warned that this can cause a “deep trauma”.
“I’m now in my third year of recovery and I am proud of it. Like so many in the recovery community I am happy, I’m healthy, I love my life, I have a wonderful, loving partner and I appreciate everything that I have.”
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Carden said: “Investing in addiction treatment and recovery services makes fiscal sense – it is a classic ‘spend to save’ investment.
“For every £1 spent on addiction treatment, the Exchequer will save at least £3 in crime, health and benefit expenditure. For every £1 spent in family intervention services, the Exchequer can generate £2.76 in direct savings.
“With increased funding we can save lives, break the cycle of intergenerational harm on children, reduce crime and level up our most deprived communities.”
In her landmark review, Dame Carol Black said the drug treatment system in England is currently “not fit for purpose”.
Dame Carol made 32 recommendations within the review, and highlighted the importance of getting more people into treatment who require it, diverting people away from the criminal justice system, and ensuring service users are given a wider package of support for housing, employment and mental health.
“The government faces an unavoidable choice: invest in tackling the problem or keep paying for the consequences,” Dame Carol said.
“A whole-system approach is needed and this part of my review offers concrete proposals, deliverable within this parliament, to achieve this.”
Mr Carden re-emphasised the need for the Tories to take a holistic approach to bolstering drug treatment services.
“Too often the health system look at addicts and treat addicts, as addicts. Not as people who are suffering. Once they see the misuse of the substance, they become afraid to treat the person so they judge them,” he explained.
“You’ve got some bizarre elements of the treatment service where, for instance, people are told they have to get sober before they can receive the mental health treatment that they need to deal with their addiction.
“Now there’s no reason for that. We need to be able to treat people with addiction as people with a chronic mental health illness.”
“If the Government serious about levelling up, then it has to tackle this issue, because many of the communities that are seeking to level up are the very communities that have the worst problems with drink and drug addiction.”
In England and Wales, 4,561 drug-related deaths and 7,423 alcohol-specific deaths were recorded last year.
Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation, has previously said cuts to public health spending run counter to the Government’s levelling up agenda.
“As the country emerges from the biggest health crisis it has ever faced, the role of public health is as important as it’s ever been.
“The upcoming spending review presents an opportunity for the Government to finally put an end to the short-sightedness of underinvesting in services which keep people healthy and prevent them from becoming ill in the first place.
Mr Carden welcomed the £80million the Government announced earlier this year, that was set to be invested in these services.
Then Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said in January: “Addiction and crime are inextricably linked and to truly break the cycle we must make sure people can access the help they need to get their lives back on track for good.”
Truly the package was the largest increase in funding in 15 years, but the investment if applied properly, will only bring services to pre-2012 standards, Mr Carden explained.
Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy has said: “As is clear in Dame Carol Black’s leaked review into government policy, the war on drugs has failed.
“We need an evidence-based, public health approach to drugs.”
Mr Carden’s comments come a week after Kate Middleton’s patron charity Forward Trust launched its ‘Taking Action on Addiction’ campaign.
The Duchess of Cambridge stressed the importance of tackling misunderstanding surrounding addiction and its roots in early childhood experiences.
And in a very frank and open conversation with Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, Kate said: “Post-lockdown, looking at the stats it’s really worrying what families are going through.
“Even hearing some of the stories today, there’s that feeling that you have to carry that secret alone and actually once you start sharing your stories, people have either experienced it themselves or know someone that’s gone through addiction.”