Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services
The Welsh Government published its ten year strategy, “Working Together to Reduce Harm”, to tackle substance misuse in Wales in October 2008. The Strategy sets out our clear national agenda for tackling and reducing the harms associated with substance misuse in Wales and covers four priority areas:
- Preventing harm;
- Supporting substance misusers – aiding and maintaining recovery;
- Supporting and protecting families; and
- Tackling availability and protecting individuals and communities via enforcement activity.
Our Programme for Government commitments further evidence the importance the Welsh Government places on this challenging agenda.
In February 2013 the Welsh Government published a new Substance Misuse Delivery Plan for 2013 – 15 which supports the Strategy and sets out the actions that we and our partners will take forward over the next 2-3 years to reduce the harm associated with substance misuse. The priorities in the delivery plan were informed by both a stakeholder consultation and the findings from the independent process evaluation of the first three years of the substance misuse strategy.
Spanning the four key aims of the strategy, the delivery plan provides a challenging programme of work and has been developed with a primary focus on improving outcomes for those impacted by substance misuse.
To achieve these outcomes we must continue to work together with partners across the substance misuse agenda to ensure that progress is maintained. This year, this partnership working has enabled us to deliver on a number of key actions as set out in the 2013 Substance Misuse Annual Report that we are publishing today. We have, for example, published a new Health and Wellbeing Compendium, designed to inform and assist service planners, commissioners, substance misuse and wider health and social care providers who work with those with problematic substance use, including those not currently accessing services. Another important step forward is the publication of new guidance on establishing integrated systems of recovery oriented service provision. This document reinforces our commitment to a recovery oriented service delivery which will inform practice and improve outcomes for service users. We will now work to assist commissioners, planners and providers to embed these practices in service delivery.
Through the Substance Misuse Action Fund (SMAF) the Welsh Government have continued to invest over £32.5 million to reduce the harm associated with substance misuse which has enabled provision of services across Wales. As the latest substance misuse statistics released earlier today demonstrate, this investment is having a real impact as we are seeing a continued improvement on reported waiting times for individuals accessing treatment and also a reduction in the numbers requiring access to treatment. We will continue to work with services to ensure continued progress in relation to treatment outcomes
Good progress continues to be made on our key Programme for Government commitments. Reducing drug related deaths, both deaths from drug related poisoning and from drug misuse remain a priority and these fell for the second successive year. Yet, we know that the majority of these deaths are preventable and therefore we are currently consulting on proposals to improve our systematic review processes for both fatal and non fatal drug poisonings to ensure that we can reduce rates further.
Long term, sustainable recovery from substance misuse relies on improving the social and economic outcomes for service users. Therefore, I am pleased to see an increase in the number of individuals benefitting from the European Social Fund (ESF) Peer Mentoring Project. By the end of June 2013 the project had worked with 8,800 participants throughout Wales, of which 799 entered paid employment. This successful project was originally due to end in September 2013 but we have worked hard to secure a 6 month extension to the scheme from September 2013 until March 2014. Our next focus will be to ensure that the new 2014-20 European Structural Fund programmes are utilised to help this client group.
Reducing the harm associated with Alcohol misuse remains a real challenge . I am determined to use all the policy levers available to us in Wales to tackle alcohol misuse, including legislation where there is scope to do so. We also continue to use awareness initiatives to inform and warn of the dangers of alcohol misuse and last year we reported that we have broadened the scope of our Change4Life programme to cover alcohol misuse prevention. In March 2013, the Welsh Government re-launched the Change4Life alcohol campaign ‘Don’t let drink sneak up on you’. The campaign aimed to reach people who, while they may not define themselves as problem drinkers, are drinking more than the recommended levels. In October the Chief Medical Officer launched the Alcohol in Higher Education Toolkit which will help Universities document the drinking habits of the students and includes a step by step guide to design and implement effective alcohol policies.
We continue to work with partners to tackle the harms associated with substance misuse and there are significant challenges in the coming year. I will ask the Advisory Panel on Substance Misuse to consider some of these, including, considering the issues/interventions for alcohol and drugs in an ageing population and advising on whether the Welsh Government’s policy response on Alcohol sale and licensing could be augmented, accepting the non-devolved nature of some of the issues.
We will also refresh the Service User Involvement Framework to include the sharing of good practice in relation to service user engagement in the design of substance misuse services
Also as part of our continued commitment to improve the health and well being of armed forces service personnel and veterans in Wales we will publish guidance aimed at improving the identification of veterans with substance misuse issues and improving their access to treatment.
The attached report provides a more detailed summary of progress made to implement our 10 year Substance Misuse Strategy and associated Delivery Plan during the last year. Through continued investment and support we will ensure that reducing substance misuse in Wales and supporting those dealing with its effects continue to be a priority for the Welsh Government.