Illegal drugs, communities and public policy

What is the problem?

The RSA Drugs Commission report, Drugs - facing facts (March 2007), highlighted a number of important issues about the effect of illegal drugs on communities and users.  This work, along with other research in the field, shows us that the challenges to public policy concerning illegal drugs are critical.

Some of the most vulnerable people in society face particular problems:

• Various groups of young people have been categorized by the Home Office as particularly vulnerable to problematic drug use: those who have been in care, in trouble with the police, excluded from school, or homeless

• One in three problem drug users is homeless or in need of housing support and a large proportion of homeless people are drug users

• In one 2005 study, nearly two-thirds of female drug users contacting treatment services had been physically abused and more than one-third sexually abused by a family member or family friend

• Refugee communities are targets for drug dealers. Young people within them are vulnerable as they commonly experiencing depression, loneliness, isolation and racially-motivated  bullying

• Unemployed people are more likely to have problems with drug use than the employed or economically inactive.

Personalised care

The drive towards personalised care is gathering momentum. In December 2007 the government's "Putting People First" Concordat proposed a radical transformation of care services, with a grant of £520 million earmarked for the introduction of personal budgets over the next three years. On January 8 2008, Gordon Brown suggested that personal budgets might be extended to health care with the introduction of individual allowances for people with chronic conditions.

The government will soon be looking for other areas in which to try out self-directed support and drugs treatment is a key target for this kind of approach. Individual motivation is crucial to help people stay in treatment and change their lives.  Giving people more control over the services they use is a powerful incentive to persevere.

Our response

Drug users have not forfeited their fundamental rights as citizens and we want to make sure they are included in the planned revolution in health and social care.

The project aims to find out whether drug users can be included in the government's drive towards providing more personalised public services. Personalised care is already producing results in other areas of social care, and we aim to explore the strengths and weaknesses of such a strategy for helping drug users.

Putting into practice ideas developed in research, we will collaborate with pioneers and practitioners in social care to try to achieve progress in this difficult area.  This includes  selected drug and alcohol action teams and  the pioneering social enterprise, inControl.

Find out more

Contact Stuart Taylor for more information about the RSA Commission. If you would like to see what we are currently doing in the field visit our Projects pages. You can also follow the project lead on Twitter using @RSARecovery or hashtag #RSArecovery.