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Recovery Plus Policy points: 2016 Where is alcohol and drug policy going this year? Will consultation be publicly transparent or limited to a select few? Laura Graham explains why she asks the questions. Following the trend for renenants, Paul Hayes, formerly of the abolished National Treatment Agency, re-surfaced in 2015. This time, he is the ‘lead’ of the Collective Voice project, which is sponsored and overseen by a group made up of the UK’s biggest statutory-funded providers – they receive a combined annual turnover of £380million in taxpayer money. One of the project’s stated aims is to engage effectively with the Conservative government... and it seems that Hayes kicked this off by announcing publicly in December that the government intended to start consulting on a new drug strategy in January with implementation expected in March 2016. Who knew? There was no official announcement at time of going to press.* I have seen a few tenders, all working to the current strategy with implementation due in April 2016. While none of the tenders appeared unfair, they would be unfair if only a few providers, with ‘insider’ information of potential strategy contents, applied that knowledge to current tenders. Is Hayes having a moment of hireath or is he privy to information ahead of other stakeholders?* If a new drug strategy is to be published soon, what would we hope to see included? The current strategy is claimed to be recovery focused. However, without any stated definition of ‘recovery,’ it is unclear what the strategy expects to achieve, and it is impossible to measure how well the strategy is implemented. Any new strategy, in order to be meaningful, must include a definition of recovery. Ideally, this definition would come from a consensus of people in long-term recovery rather than from the service providers who are funded to deliver their version of recovery which could well be distorted to protect a vested financial interest. If we are to have a truly recovery-focused strategy, it must recognise and include alcohol as a drug. We know of service providers which support people to come off illegal drugs but do nothing to support the same people with their alcohol addiction. This could be down to funding – or a lack of training and knowledge. We also need greater transparency in who is advising government on drugs and how they are doing it so that we can all understand how policy and funding decisions are made. We know that ACMD business is largely done in a public forum but there are others who are less transparent. The Care Quality Commission took a much-needed step in filming and broadcasting its Board meetings online in recent years to ensure that we could judge how honestly it conducted business. Could government follow this route to at least attempt to restore some faith, generate genuine unity and inclusion, and develop a broader debate in the fragmented, largely voiceless and despondent climate that the field is currently experiencing? * Hot off the press: BBC Home Affairs editor Mark Easton gave an update as Recovery Plus was going to press – see page 7. your library’s essential reference Feb 2016 47


RecoveryPlus1
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