Headlines: April 29th, 1998

The new drugs strategy announced by Ann Taylor, MP, Leader of the House of Commons, focuses on education and prevention. It also signals a shift of resources away from enforcement and towards preventing drug mis-use in the first place.The ten year strategy, set out in the White Paper “Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain” was drawn up following extensive research by Keith Hellawell, UK Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator and his deputy, Mike Trace. They interviewed over 2,000 people to assess the current situation. The main themes of the strategy are: young people, communities, drugs treatment and drugs availability. Key objectives are:

  • to reduce the proportion of people under 25 using illegal drugs;
  • to reduce the level of reoffending among drug misusing offenders;
  • to increase the participation of problem drug users, including prisoners, in drug treatment programmes;
  • to reduce the access to drugs among 5 -16 year olds.

The new initiative to carry the strategy forward include:

  • channelling seized assets from drug dealers into anti-drug work
  • all children aged 5 to 16 will receive appropriate drug education
  • piloting drug treatment and testing orders for offenders
  • setting tough targets for reducing drug misuse based on evidence and experience during the first year.

Implementing the strategy will involve Government departments, the criminal justice system, local authorities, the NHS Executive and trusts and voluntary bodies.

The Prime Minister said: “The fight against the evil of drugs is part of a wider range of policies to renew our communities and ensure decent opportunities are available to everyone. They are policies for the long term.” He stressed that drug problems do not occur in isolation. “The Government is tackling inequalities through the largest ever programme to get people off benefit and into work and a series of reforms in the welfare state, education, health, criminal justice and the economy. The new Social Exclusion Unit is looking at many of the problems often associated with drug taking, such as school exclusions, truancy, rough sleeping and poor housing.”