Headlines: October 17th, 1997

The appointments of Keith Hellawell, as the UK Anti Drugs Co-ordinator and Michael Trace, as his deputy mark the first step towards a coherent anti drugs strategy.The need for a more coherent approach to the drugs problem has been recognised for a long time. Although there is collaboration at local level, the patchwork of departments, local authorities, police, NHS Executive and trusts, agencies and voluntary bodies is not effective in addressing one of the most complex issues confronting society. A particular weakness of the current arrangements is that funding is provided from a budget in one of the organisations and can only be used in a specified way. The greatest need at the sharp end may be somewhat different and the result is that best value for money is not achieved. This is one of the issues the strategy will need to address.

Ann Taylor, the President of the Council and Chair of the Cabinet sub-committee on Drug Misuse, said: “Keith Hellawell, currently the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, has considerable knowledge and will provide visible leadership in this field. His Deputy, Michael Trace, currently Director of the Rehabilitation of Addicted Prisoners Trust, has enormous specialist expertise, particularly with regard to effective drugs treatment. Together they will be working closely with all those across Government and beyond who are involved in tackling drug misuse. No one can say that the task facing them is an easy one. Drugs are a serious problem which affect everyone – not just those who are caught in the drugs trap. I am delighted that such high calibre people are going to be building on what has already been achieved. We need to ensure that we are tough on drug misuse but also tough on the causes of drug misuse.

Although the new co-ordination team will start with a blank sheet of paper it is already clear that the strategy will be centred around three themes: reducing drugs supply through strong enforcement, reducing health risks through effective treatment and reducing demand amongst young people through education and prevention.

Speaking about his appointment Keith Hellawell said: “My first priority in this job is to consult widely and ensure that we build on what actually works, locally, nationally and internationally in tackling the problem. As soon as possible I will then be making recommendations to the Government for a new anti-drugs strategy for the Millennium. I am delighted that Michael Trace will be my Deputy in this job. He will be supporting me across the range of my responsibilities as well as using his specialist expertise to address some key areas such as effective drug treatment in the criminal justice system.

Keith Hellawell will report to Ann Taylor, the President of the Council and Chair of the Cabinet sub-committee on drugs misuse. He will also have direct access to the Prime Minister.