Reading council blasted for ignorance for '£2.2 million cut' to addiction services

Alcoholism. Credit: rebcenter-moscow from Pixabay
Alcoholism. Credit: rebcenter-moscow from Pixabay

Reading Borough Council has been slammed for its ‘ignorance’ over cuts amounting to £2.2 million to addiction services for vulnerable people in the town.

The council is responsible for administering government funding to services that support those struggling with alcohol and drug addictions.

UK Addiction Treatment group (UKAT) has slammed the council, claiming that it has slashed funds by £2.2 million, or 62 per cent over a 10-year period.

This year, the council has allocated £1.4 million in funding towards drug and alcohol treatment services in the community.

Budgets for drug & alcohol treatment and rough sleeping will be discussed at the council’s policy committee meeting on Monday.

Ahead of that, a UKAT boss has called the alleged cuts of being ‘unsympathetic’ to those who are struggling with addictions.

READ MORE: More than a dozen drugs deaths reported in Reading post-pandemic 

Nuno Albuquerque, head of treatment for the UKAT group said: “These figures force us into thinking that those in charge of budgets in their local community are unsympathetic towards those who suffer with addiction.

“Quite simply, it’s a false economy; avoiding funding addicts with long-term, entrenched addiction into rehab is just kicking the can down the road.

“The sooner they’re funded into effective, residential rehab and onto the road to recovery the better for them, their families, the economy and their local community.

“It cannot be a coincidence that as spending on treatment services drops off, more and more people develop an addiction and need help.”

UKAT has provided figures that show drug poisoning deaths rising in Reading.

In 2013, 10 years ago, there were nine deaths relating to drug poisoning.

The UKAT group says drug poisoning deaths increased to 16 in 2021, representing a 77 per cent rise.

In response to this criticism, a spokesperson for the council argued that budgets have been reduced due to a decline in amounts provided by the government.

A council spokesperson said: “We would point out that the Reading Council public health grant has been cut by 26 per cent on a real terms per person basis since 2015/16, so we are surprised that the UK Addiction Treatment Group have not seemingly taken this context into account.

“In December 2021, the Government announced a new 10-year Drugs Strategy called ‘Harm to Hope’.

“The strategy is supported by additional time funding over a three-year period to strengthen drug and alcohol treatment services, however it is important to note this funding is time limited and the allocation for Reading’s in Year 3 is not yet known.

“This money is being utilised for direct service provision and we have continued to work hard to maintain the existing level of funding to the provider in what is an increasingly challenging context.

“Reading has a Local Drug Intelligence System which analyses drug intelligence, deaths and overdoses to reduce the risks and address the increases in drug-related deaths.

“We commission a provider to deliver drug and alcohol treatment for local people and we are working with our partners to further improve the service.”

The council’s current service provider is called Change Grow Live, which was awarded a contract to deliver the council’s Multiple Disadvantage Outreach Team service in January 2022.

READ MORE: Reading drug and alcohol addiction charity receives grant to press on with help to the vulnerable 

The team provides a response service, improved support and recovery outcomes to those experiencing rough sleeping who have drug and alcohol dependencies and mental and physical health support needs.

The council is set to receive £1.866 million from the government’s Rough Sleeper Drug and Alcohol Treatment Grant to help tackle the issues in the borough.

The council’s policy committee is due to delegate authority to its executive director of communities & adult social care to award a contract to deliver rehabilitation services at its meeting on Monday, September 25.