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Prisoners: Drugs

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 30335, tabled on 9 July 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, with reference to Dame Carol Black’s Review of drugs part two: prevention, treatment, and recovery, published on 8 July 2021, if he will implement recommendation 15 in that report.

Answered on

19 July 2021

Combating illegal drug misuse is a top priority for this Government. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is working closely with key departments across government to tackle the misuse of drugs, including reducing drug supply and demand and improving treatment and recovery for offenders with substance misuse needs. We welcome Part 2 of Dame Carol Black’s Independent Review of Drugs and the Government will shortly be publishing an initial response to the report, including on those recommendations made to the MoJ.

There are a number of areas where work is ongoing to address drug misuse in the criminal justice system. In January 2021, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) received £80m additional funding for drug treatment in 2021/22. This will be used to enhance drug treatment and the numbers of treatment places available, including places for those leaving prison, to reduce drug-related crime.

This funding will support us to increase the use of Drug Rehabilitation Requirement (DRR) or Alcohol Treatment Requirement (ATR) under the Community Sentence Treatment Requirement (CSTR) programme; officials from Public Health England (PHE) are working to recruit criminal justice substance misuse practitioners to individual local authorities, with implementation plans being monitored on a quarterly basis.

The MoJ, Her Majesty Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), DHSC and NHSE/I are also working to promote and support the use of existing CSTRs in every area and to maximize the use of these additional funds provided for substance misuse services dedicated to the criminal justice system.

Activities are also underway to ensure the Probation Service align their services with the recently announced treatment funding to support criminal justice pathways. For example, HMPPS has introduced Health and Justice Coordinators across five areas in England and Wales, with a further five to be introduced next year, to test how these roles can enhance the connection between mental health and substance misuse commissioners and providers with the aim of improving continuity of care for those leaving prison. The Health and Justice Coordinator role will be evaluated as part of the wider Accelerator Prison Pilot, which will be subject to both impact and process evaluations.

This work is supported by HMPPS’ National Drug Strategy, which was published in 2019 and focuses on restricting supply, reducing demand and improving treatment. The strategy is being refreshed to address issues around continuity of drug treatment for prison leavers in the community. We are considering the workforce needs of supporting prisons out of recovery and as part of our prison reforms, including how we support access to a full range of health and social care services.

Furthermore, offenders are routinely supported in custody to prepare for release. Firstly, MoJ and DWP officials meet regularly at national and local level, and within the framework of the National Partnership Agreement, to plan how the departments can work together to support prisoners. This includes support with benefit claims in the crucial period leading to release and through the gate. Secondly, as part of the Government’s Covid-19 response, DWP established a bespoke phone service to help prison leavers make a Universal Credit (UC) claim on or after the day of release whilst restrictions prevented Prison Work Coaches providing the usual support with this. This service has now been adopted permanently by DWP to assist prison leavers to make a claim for UC quickly on release, where they are unable to make a claim online.