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PCC sets out the way forward to reduce drug and alcohol related crime in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight

30 November 2023

The Police and Crime Commissioner, Donna Jones, has addressed a Continuity of Care workshop in Winchester as part of her commitment to supporting offenders and reducing reoffending.

The event on Thursday 23 November 2023 brought together partners from government, police, probation, public health, HM prison services, NHS, local authorities, service providers and importantly those with lived experience to look at how to further support people who leave or enter prison with a substance misuse treatment need.

Continuity of Care refers to helping them successfully engage in community treatment after their release from prison. It also recognises the needs of those going into prison who may require ongoing substance misuse support.

The event was organised to discuss how to improve three critical areas that have been identified locally and nationally and which, if improved, will increase referrals into treatment. These are data, pathways and partnerships.

PCC Donna Jones said: “It’s an extremely difficult time for people when they leave prison and they can be at a higher risk of reoffending. We need to work together to maximise opportunities for engagement with support services, including clear pathways into community treatment after having been released.

“There is a link between trauma as a result of earlier life experiences, drug dependency and crime. If we can break that cycle we can reduce crime and further protect victims.

“This event provided a vital opportunity to think outside the box, and to bring home the message that in order to reduce drug and alcohol related harm we need to treat the cause as well as offer effective community engagement and support wherever possible so we can all contribute to making our communities safer.”

The event supported the government’s 10 year drug strategy, ‘From Harm To Hope, which plans to cut crime and save lives by breaking drug supply chains, delivering a world class treatment and recovery system, and achieving a generational shift in the demand for drugs.

The PCC is also Chair of the Pan Hampshire Combatting Drugs Partnership which is the first of its kind in the Solent region and brings together the police, public health, probation, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, NHS England, and HM prison service to support the implementation of the government’s 10 year drug strategy.

PCC Donna Jones said: “This partnership sends a clear message that we are serious about significantly reducing drug and alcohol related harm, and ensuring that Hampshire and the Isle of Wight lead the way on best practice nationally.”

Director of Public Health for Hampshire County Council and Isle of Wight Council, Simon Bryant, said: “Breaking the cycle of crime that addiction can drive and supporting people from prison back into the community is imperative for the wellbeing of individuals, as well as wider society.”

“Our work with partners to achieve this will further benefit from the additional funding we are set to receive from next year, enabling us to lead the reduction of substance use to give people with addictions a better chance of turning their lives around for the benefit of all.”

Director of Public Health at Southampton City Council, Debbie Chase, added: “People who use drugs and alcohol can be very vulnerable when they are released from prison and at higher risk of relapse and dying.

“We are dedicated to working with our partners and neighbours to strengthen continuity of care from prison into community treatment, so people get the help they need in a safe, timely and effective way.”

The Continuity of Care Workshop comes off the back of news that local authorities across England will benefit from nearly £267M of government funding next year to improve drug and alcohol treatment and recovery services.

The funding, to be rolled out in April 2024, enables local authorities to recruit more specialised staff to work with people who have drug and alcohol problems, and support more prison leavers into treatment and recovery pathways.

PCC Donna Jones said: “We know that drug addiction drives around half of all crimes so this funding will help reduce crime rates by increasing the number of people receiving structured drug and alcohol treatment, and breaking the cycle of addiction. This, in turn, will help make streets safer and save lives.”

The Director of Public Health at Portsmouth City Council, Helen Atkinson, said: “In Portsmouth we have used the additional drug treatment funding from the government to provide a dedicated team to engage with offenders in police custody, the courts and prisons. Next year our additional funding will rise to just under £1.6M.

“A key priority is to increase the number of people leaving prison who engage in ongoing drug treatment, and by doing so we will improve the lives and reduce the likelihood that they will reoffend and end up back in prison.”

An innovative Drug Testing on Arrest scheme is already in operation across police custody suites in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight thanks to more than £600K of funding provided by the Police and Crime Commissioner.

The initiative helps ensure people who have been arrested are steered out of crime and into treatment pathways at the earliest opportunity thereby breaking the cycle between drug depending and crime, and offering offenders the support they need to reduce offending.