By Mary O'Connor
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The government says it is to provide rehabilitation for 300,000 drug users who carry out half of all shop thefts, robberies and burglaries.
Ministers have announced that a 10-year drugs strategy will allocate £780m in funding for the drug treatment system in England.
It also includes £300m for combating more than 2,000 county lines gangs.
The government says that in some cases casual drug users may lose their driving licences or passports.
Labour said reforms were "long overdue" and cuts to police budgets had allowed gangs to grow.
Announcing its new drug strategy on Monday, the government said all local authorities in England will receive new money for treatment and recovery – with the 50 councils where there is most need receiving the funds first.
The strategy, say ministers, will treat addiction as a chronic health condition in order to reduce stigma, save lives and break the cycle of crime fuelled by addiction.
This will include delivering treatment and recovery services through rebuilding the workforce, council-led substance misuse services and ensuring support is more integrated to cater for users' physical and mental health needs.
The government will also look to improve access to accommodation and treatment for people at risk of sleeping rough as well as boosting employment opportunities.
It plans to roll out individual employment support across all local authorities in England by 2025 to help those in recovery to secure work.
It will also aim to increase the number of referrals for treatment from within the criminal justice system and improve the engagement of prisoners with treatment after their release.
Judges will also be given the power to order testing on anyone serving a community sentence for drug-related offences and those who test positive could be jailed.
It is almost as though the government wanted to hide what it is doing to tackle drug use – spending more than twice as much on treatment and recovery than on criminal interventions.
There are some who point out that the new money does not make up for all the cuts to drugs services in England over the last decade.
But few had expected the Treasury and Number 10 to agree to go further even than the recommendations of the independent review of drugs commissioned by the Home Office and published last summer.
The money should mark a new era for drug treatment and recovery in England, but such is the concern that voters will want politicians to sound and act tough, that ministers would rather focus on police bashing in doors than the quiet work to help those with an addiction get their lives back on track.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said the strategy would save lives and help "level-up the country" with "record" investment in treatment services to "break the cycle of drug use" and help communities by cutting drug-related crime.
Meanwhile, £300m will spent on cracking down on supply chains and the criminals profiting from illegal drugs in England and Wales, including:
As part of efforts to stem the demand for drugs, £9m will be invested in the so-called Tough Consequences out-of-court disposals scheme to bring in a "relevant and proportionate consequence" for casual users.
The government said potential punishments could include fines, curfews, or in the most exceptional cases, the temporary removal of driving licences or passports.
Other plans to discourage people from buying illegal drugs will include police using dealers' seized phones to message their clients to direct them to support and discourage use – a move the government says will help ensure no-one feels anonymous when buying drugs.
There are also plans to pilot a behaviour change campaign on university campuses to understand what messages discourage drug misuse at an early stage.
Further actions will also include a £15m investment over three years to roll out drug testing on arrest across police forces in England and Wales.
By the end of 2024/25, the government's strategy aims to have:
Crime and Policing minister Kit Malthouse told the House of Commons the strategy was a "blueprint for driving drugs out of our cities, towns and villages" and ensuring those affected had they needed with a collective effort across government.
Labour's shadow Home Office minister Sarah Jones accused the Conservatives of dropping "the ball on drugs" and on crime.
She said there had been no recognition of the damage caused by previous Conservative government policies, which had left "communities of good people with hopes and dreams invaded by serious organised crime trashing our streets, preying on our young, offering false hope of money and a future…[and] thousands of children at risk of abuse".
Mr Malthouse refused to accept that, saying Labour should accept "some culpability for the financial situation" the Conservatives inherited "well over a decade ago".
Drug deaths in England and Wales are at their highest level since records began in 1993, with 4,561 people dying last year.
The Home Office said crimes associated with drugs cost society nearly £20bn a year in England alone.
It said that included the burglaries, robberies and shoplifting carried out by more than 300,000 heroin and crack addicts in England and as well as nearly half of all homicides, which are driven by drugs.
The drug strategy follows a government-commissioned review of drug policy by Dame Carol Black that found spending on treatment for drug abuse fell by 17% in the four years up to 2018-19, with a 28% cut for young people's services.
Her report said provision for treatment "urgently needs repair", and recommended funding be increased by £552m by year five.
Dame Carol, who will monitor and advise on the strategy's progress and produce an annual update, said she was "delighted" the government was making "this very significant investment in drug treatment and recovery services, alongside the funding allocated to tackle drug supply".
She said money to improve housing support and employment opportunities was also critical because people "need hope, purpose and practical steps to help them achieve a better future".
Prof Alex Stevens, a former drugs advisor to the government, told the BBC that the previous two drugs strategies had been accompanied with "lots of promises, but no cash" so it made a "welcome change" that the latest one was "backed up with the cash that is needed to invest in effective drug treatments services".
Additional reporting by Joseph Lee
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Drugs plan aims to help 300000 problem drug users – BBC News
By Mary O'Connor