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New programme to break cycle of substance misuse and crime

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Thames Valley Police has a new partnership with the substance abuse charity Druglink to deliver an innovative adult drug diversion programme providing education and support to help break the cycle of substance abuse and minor offending.

The contract for the provision of the adult drug diversion with Druglink has received £75,000 funding from the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit, which has a priority to support partners in their efforts to tackle drug crime and the associated harm.

The contract has been announced on the day the Government launched a new Drugs Strategy, which emphasised the importance of increasing the provision of diversion, education and treatment to address addictions. 

Thames Valley Police has a range of out-of-court disposal options and diversion schemes already in place. These are used to deal with low-level offences involving or motivated by alcohol or drug misuse, including anti-social behaviour and acquisitive crime such as shoplifting and theft. These disposal routes provide specialist support to change behaviours while also reducing demand on the police and judicial services.

Under the adult drug diversion programme with Druglink, those found in possession of small amounts of illegal drugs or where their offence is linked to substance misuse or addiction can be referred to Druglink to attend their education programme.

Druglink’s specialist workers, many of whom have overcome their own challenges with substance misuse, deliver a tailored intervention. The programme explores the health-harms of drugs, the wider impact on society, focuses on the development of personal resilience and skills to address substance misuse and the offending it can cause. On completing the course they are signposted to other local services for ongoing support.

Druglink will take an estimated 5,000 referrals per year – up to 100 per week – from across the whole force area. As a deferred prosecution, if an adult does not attend they are then reported for the offence and may be summoned to court.

The Druglink education programme is for adults only. A similar programme for young people is also in place, rolled-out force wide in 2020.  Police work closely with Youth Offending Teams using the local commissioned substance misuse education providers. This scheme has repeatedly been cited as best practice, including in the recent Dame Carole Black independent review of drugs.

Chief Inspector Jason Kew, of the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit, said:

“Thames Valley Police continues to take a strong enforcement stance against drug dealers and county lines gangs whose evil trade bring misery to those struggling with addiction, those they exploit and communities blighted by the crime and violence fuelled by drugs.

“But we know that we must also support those who misuse drugs, alcohol and other substances so that we can prevent harm, stop the offending they commit and reduce the demand for illegal drugs.

“Our partnership with Druglink is another important part of our use of tailored interventions to help break that cycle of drugs and offending, to help people change their lives and behaviour.”

Tara Lock, Training & Diversion Team Leader at Druglink, said:

“We’re delighted to be working alongside Thames Valley Police on this new project which we feel could play a vital step in addressing the underlying root causes of some minor offending.

“With the right education and support we believe this project will help guide decision making and direct people to the help they otherwise would not be able to find.

“Druglink have over 30 years of experience in the field, but in recent years, difficult times have led people in everyday situations to increase their consumption of substances. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a hugely negative impact on mental health and well-being, a side-effect of this being an increased use of alcohol and other drugs. We know how easily these situations can get out of control and we are glad to be working alongside Thames Valley Police to help target harmful behaviour.” 

Matthew Barber, Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley said: 

“I am pleased to be funding this programme with Druglink as part of our Violence Reduction Unit work.   As detailed in the Government’s Drug Strategy launched yesterday, we need to place emphasis on drug diversion, education and support, not solely enforcement, if we are to break the cycle of drug misuse, drug related crime and stop lives being devastated by addiction. 

“In the Thames Valley we are already delivering drug diversion schemes with out of court disposal options and I am pleased we are able to extend this to work with Druglink to deliver a specialist education and support programme”.