Action on drugs and alcohol: priorities for the next government

The General Election on 4th July 2024 is an opportunity for all political parties to commit to securing high quality drug and alcohol treatment for everyone who wants to access it. 

Harm from drug and alcohol use affects children, families, and communities across the UK, and puts pressure on the NHS and other local services. The current ten-year drug strategy is a positive step forward in terms of financial investment but more importantly because it sees those Change Grow Live serves as people, not as problems.

But there is more to do to make the national drug strategy a reality. Our manifesto ‘asks’ set out how the next UK Government can achieve a step change in drug and alcohol treatment and change the lives of the people who use our services. 

We call on the next Government to work with us to: 

1. Make a reality of the vision for drug and alcohol treatment in the drug strategy 

The current drug strategy provides a vision for the transformation of services for people who want to change the way they use drugs. It recommends new partnerships between the NHS, the third sector and other public health services to create system stability. The strategy also recognises that drug and alcohol issues are a health condition and require effective treatment and support. We want to see a new government commit to this vision and want to work with them to implement it. 

We also want to see the progress of the strategy measured in the round, not just based on abstinence or the numbers treated. It’s important to assess how we reduce the harms associated with drug use, and support people on their journey, at every stage.

2. Commit to sustainable three-year funding cycles

Change is needed to ensure that additional funding can deliver genuine, sustainable benefits in local communities. We want to see the introduction of funding cycles of at least 3 years.

For every £1 spent on drug treatment, £4 is saved, which reduces demands on health, prison, law enforcement and emergency services. But current yearly funding cycles make long-term change to service delivery challenging. Stable funding will mean that improvements delivered through the Drug Strategy are long-lasting and that cost savings are realised.

Stable and sustained funding will also support services to be agile in responding to emerging threats on the drugs landscape, such as those arising in the current situation with the increasing risks of Nitazene and other Novel Synthetic Opioids (NSO).

3. Recognise the role of third sector service providers in delivering high quality drug and alcohol treatment as part of the wider public health system

Third sector providers of drug and alcohol services are a vital part of the wider public health system, but this is not always recognised. The third sector offers innovation, flexibility and often has strong roots in local communities.

The third sector plays a crucial role in delivering high quality treatment for people who use drugs and alcohol, which helps to ensure a healthier population, tackle health inequalities and reduce pressure on the NHS.

To maximise the value of the third sector, our treatment services need to be fully integrated in local public health systems and contribute to decisions about service design and delivery. As a minimum, drug and alcohol treatment services should be represented and given equal voice at all Combating Drugs Partnerships across the country.

4. Work with us to beat stigma

People who use drugs and alcohol have to deal with prejudice, ignorance, and misconceptions, which makes it harder for them to access the services they need. When people are seen as individuals instead of defined by their drug or alcohol use, their treatment and recovery journey becomes less challenging. 

We want to work with the incoming UK government to run national awareness campaigns and local training to reduce stigma and help professionals and the public understand the needs of people who use drugs and alcohol.

5. Implement a comprehensive substance misuse workforce strategy

Implement the 10-year strategic plan for the drug and alcohol treatment and recovery workforce (2024–2034) ensuring sufficient funding, in line with the drug strategy’s ambition, to encourage more people to work in the sector and to provide high-quality training and development for them.

Delivering the comprehensive strategy to rebuild the substance misuse workforce is critical to increasing the capacity and improving the quality of services, and to realising the benefits of the national drug strategy.

6. A new national strategy on alcohol treatment

Deaths from alcohol use and alcohol related illnesses have risen sharply over recent years, and the harms caused for individuals, families and communities are increasing, as well as the costs to society. Alongside partner organisations, we’re calling for a national strategic plan on alcohol, that includes investment in prevention and treatment services and a more joined up approach.


About Change Grow Live

Change Grow Live is the largest third sector provider of drug and alcohol services in the UK, and one of the largest employers of healthcare professionals outside of the NHS.

We are a nationwide charity providing confidential support for people, enabling them to change the way they use drugs and alcohol. We work with adults, young people and families with children, both in community and prison settings. 

We deliver support and care to over 200,000 people each year in over 200 services in constituencies across England and Scotland, through our teams of medics, psychiatrists, nurses, pharmacists, trained staff and, lived and living experience volunteers and peers.

Many of the people we work with are also affected by social and economic deprivation, mental health issues, trauma and abuse, homelessness or unemployment. Too often, people who use drugs and alcohol face stigma and prejudice, which makes them reluctant to ask for help. We want to work with national and local government to agree a joined-up approach to tackling these issues and to address inequalities in health and social care.

Our work is informed by a simple principle that experience tells us works: 

Believe in People

This means we strive to create the conditions for our people to do their best work. It means that we believe that, with the right opportunities and support, anyone can change their life for the better. We believe in the people who engage with us and the range of services we offer that enable change.