Anger at 30% cut in drug support

MASSIVE cuts in funding to Suffolk's drug support agency will have a “devastating” blow on its ability to treat addicts, it has been claimed.

Russell Claydon

MASSIVE cuts in funding to Suffolk's drug support agency will have a “devastating” blow on its ability to treat addicts, it has been claimed.

Suffolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT) will lose 30% of its main Government grant in 2010 which goes towards helping people with drug problems.

The DAAT is currently in line to receive �2.2million from the Government next year compared to �3.2m in 2007 and �3m last year.

This is despite the DAAT seeing a large increase in adults receiving treatment in the past year.

Chip Somers, chief executive of Bury St Edmunds-based addiction charity Focus12, said it was a “slap in the face” to Suffolk's drug support charities.

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“I think it is going to be devastating,” he said. “We are expected by the Government to see more people than last year and yet they are providing us with less money to do so. It can only mean that the level of services that we provide to the addicted population of Suffolk is going to be badly affected.

“Agencies will only be able to deal with people with severe problems like class A drugs and those people with problems with tranquilizers or cannabis are going to really struggle to find appropriate treatment because of the way the money is being distributed as agencies have to start making choices about who they see in order to keep within budget.

“It is a real slap in the face to all the hard work that agencies have done in Suffolk and will undermine the morale of what we are doing and will have a negative influence on the way that we can deliver services.”

Brian Tobin, director of rehabilitation charity The Iceni Project, based in Ipswich, said: “My concern is that there will be no money for new initiatives like working with families, which is most needed in Suffolk.

“I think it is tremendously disappointing that we are getting a cut at a time when it is probably needed the most.”

Details of the financial cut are revealed in a report which will be discussed at a Suffolk County Council committee meeting later this month.

The report admits the 30% cut could have a “significant impact” but Simon Aalders, DAAT co-ordinator, said frontline services would not be affected.

“There may well be difficult decisions to make but if we take them collectively with our partners and everybody knows what we are doing then that gives us a much better chance of managing this,” said Mr Aalders.

“Losing any element of your budget is always going to be challenging but I would not want people to think that we are not making effective plans to deal with it and deliver the most cost-effective services we can.

“We know the crucial role that this treatment plays in the lives of thousands of people, not just those who come through the door of services but families and friends and the wider community. I want to reassure people that we are not looking at closing services, that would be the last thing we are considering.”