Drug users to be given personal budgets

Drug abusers are to be given personal budgets to help them overcome their addictions in a pilot in West Sussex. But instead of direct payments, they will each be given a virtual allocation, managed by the council, and some control over how it is spent.

Picture: Rex Features

Drug abusers are to be given personal budgets to help them overcome their addictions in a pilot in West Sussex.

But instead of direct payments, they will each be given a virtual allocation, managed by the council, and some control over how it is spent.

The initiative will be road-tested for up to a year in Bognor Regis and Crawley, and focus on those who have a history of poor engagement with treatment services or are just starting their treatment.

They are likely to still be using drugs and in many cases will still have chaotic lifestyles.

It will be a user-led scheme and involve 12 people – still to be selected – and start in about two months time once safeguarding protocols and a framework of services that could be accessed is agreed.

However the preliminary results of a survey of 100 users across the two areas have indicated that people are looking for more peer-led services.

This builds on the council’s championing of its user-led Exact groups, which are designed to allow people affected by drugs or alcohol to play a key role in shaping services.

West Sussex Council is regarded as a leader in the rollout of personal budgets, with about 2,900 recipients currently.

John Dixon, social and caring services director, said: “Having had experience of people with profound learning disabilities we recognised the benefits can be extended to anybody. It’s just a question of how much support they have and what framework you offer.”

Sam Tearle, West Sussex’s drug and alcohol action team (DAAT) co-ordinator, said personal budgets should allow the client group to have a greater sense of ownership over their treatment leading to improved outcomes.

He added: “There are a number of things we hope to gain out of this; it will be learning for us as a commissioner of services, the learning will be beneficial for the treatment providers and ultimately it will be useful for the client group.”

A decision has still to be taken on whether the allocations will be divided equally between clients.

The project is being undertaken with the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), which will analyse the outcomes with funding from the Tudor Trust and the Waites Foundation.

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