Why invest? Why resource?

Changing Lives | October 2019 | 8 minutes

Policy proposal: Mandate local authorities to provide and promote a 'ring-fenced' resource for alcohol treatment, early alcohol intervention provision, and prevention services.

The Alcohol Charter, produced jointly by the Drugs, Alcohol & Justice Cross-Party Parliamentary Group and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm, sets out effective and workable policies to reduce the damage to society caused by alcohol misuse. The proposals above are two of 16 evidence-based policy proposals laid out in the Charter.

Changing Lives is one of more than 30 organisations that endorse the Alcohol Charter. Here, they outline their reasons for supporting these proposals.

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At Changing Lives we know that collaboration and partnerships are vital to helping people, services and communities address the impact of alcohol misuse. Any debate on service resources must have the health and wellbeing of the person, families, services and communities at its heart, and not be reduced into a conversation about year on year funding allocations.

Persistent alcohol consumption and dependency are an adaptation, often to cope with trauma, and not an individual identity. As seen in current mental health campaigns we must begin to talk more about this at every level, in order for a truly effective approach to addressing the issues experienced across the UK.

The impact of the well documented reduction of resources in our sector is central to this debate. We have seen funding for addiction treatment services reduce year on year across the country. If the Government proceeds with its plans to replace the ring-fenced public health grant with business rate retention funding, this could place an even greater pressure on a system that is already showing signs of stress, both in practice and in the workforce. At a time where we are seeking evidence to inform and help treatment to thrive, we may find that we cannot fully act on strong research and data which would help us to deliver on the guidance of the 2017 Drug Strategy. When speaking to others across organisations and communities, increasing funding uncertainty and year on year reductions in funding are having a negative impact on our capacity to contribute to helping people who find themselves dependent on alcohol.

If the Government proceeds with its plans to replace the ring-fenced public health grant with business rate retention funding, this could place an even greater pressure on a system that is already showing signs of stress, both in practice and in the workforce.

It is estimated that 10.4 million adults drink at levels that are a risk to health in the UK, this represents around 1 in 6 people. With alcohol-specific deaths rising in recent years there is concern that we not making headway with the issue and are also not investing, reflecting and evolving enough to break intergenerational cycles with robust intervention and prevention. However, there is hope, in the research from the BMC Public Health, younger generations are reporting lower alcohol consumption with 29% of 16-24 year olds reporting they do not drink alcohol, a dramatic increase from only 18% in 2005. With this apparent new generational shift in the relationship with alcohol this would be an opportune moment for us to ensure resource is available across prevention, intervention and treatment for people, families and in our communities. This would help contribute to a large scale cultural shift around our understanding of the impact alcohol has beyond just consumption. This will improve the health and well-being of so many and save countless lives.

We should celebrate the responsiveness of many organisations, local authorities and communities who have avoided being consumed by a narrative of disinvestment and blame. We know from the public health data and evaluation from the ‘Why Invest’ report that investment in prevention, intervention and treatment for alcohol dependency brings with it large social returns as well as helping to challenge the current national narrative around alcohol. With this in mind, it is imperative that we protect resources and look to increase this moving forward, whether this is through ring-fencing funding or through another mechanism. We must ensure that escalating issues around alcohol including alcohol-related deaths, hidden harm (e.g. related brain damage), modern-day slavery and people ‘affected by’ are kept at a forefront of any government’s mind, and as such funding for prevention, intervention and treatment services is considered a priority.

We should celebrate the responsiveness of many organisations, local authorities and communities who have avoided being consumed by a narrative of disinvestment and blame.

Charter commitment 2, as a statement of purpose, should be strongly supported by the public and by policy makers because, as the data shows, there are very few people this issue does not impact. We must let common sense prevail by using research and lived experiences of communities and people working in the field, to ensure that we retain and boost the commitment to funding alcohol services. Otherwise, like the person who finds themselves alcohol dependent or experiencing problems with alcohol, we could find ourselves entirely consumed by the issues associated with the consumable.

Changing Lives work with people who are in crisis or who need support to overcome serious challenges that can limit their opportunities. They help people to develop the skills and self-belief to move past prior experiences, change their story and achieve a better future - for themselves, their families and their communities.

Take action

The policies laid out in the Alcohol Charter represent realistic, powerful ways to reduce the harm caused by alcohol. Help make them happen.

Sign up as an organisational supporter of the Charter and help the policies of the Charter become reality.

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