Council plans to reduce rehab funding criticised by charity


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A plan to reduce Lewisham’s services aimed at tackling addiction has been criticised by a drugs awareness charity.

Lewisham Council is being asked to a plan to cut the budget for the Drug and Alcohol Team by £207,000.

The plan, which will be discussed  by the council next week, would reduce funding for rehabilitation for “substance users with high levels of need”, cut the budget for drug and alcohol training for schools and professionals as well as the funding for media campaigns.

It would cut by 13 the number of places  in rehabilitation programmes in Lewisham each year.

This proposal is part of the council’s savings plan, announced in November, which aims to save £28.3m by 2016. It will be discussed at the Safer Stronger Communities Select Committee meeting on January 23.

Acknowledging that local authorities were under severe pressure to reduce budgets, Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope, the prime British charity supporting drug and alcohol awareness workers, said: ‘It is concerning that cuts are being proposed for services for people with severe or entrenched drug and alcohol problems.

“Residential rehabilitation services make an important contribution towards a balanced treatment system but many have been experiencing funding problems and reduced referrals in recent years, and a number of centres have had to close. This impacts on the availability of more specialised support and the ability of people to access a choice of treatment options.”

This measure comes about despite the recommendation of Lewisham’s Annual Public Health Report 2011-2012 to “focus on prevention” through social marketing and school programmes.

The final decision concerning all the proposed budget reductions  will be taken by the Mayor and his Cabinet on February 13.

Gaëlle Laforest

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