Blair promises to tackle Britain’s drug problem

Prime minister Tony Blair

Tony Blair yesterday claimed that a whole new approach to tackling
Britain’s drug problems was needed, writes Clare

The prime minister highlighted that 300,000 children are growing
up with one or both parents addicted to drugs and half of all crime
is drug-related. He said a different approach to drug and alcohol
abuse was required to tackle law and order problems.

Speaking at the University of London, Blair stressed that drug
treatment saves the economy £3 for every £1 invested.

But while the number of treatment places were up by more than
50,000 since 1998, the amount invested in tackling hard core drug
addicts had doubled and the Serious Organised Crime Agency was
focussing on drug trade, the scale of the problem was not being

“The challenge is immense to provide a whole new national
infrastructure capable of tackling drugs effectively – the
big traffickers, the small street dealers, the 280,000 regular
users of heroin or crack cocaine, the high proportion of the prison
and offending population which are addicts,” he added.

Blair used his speech yesterday to set out his plans to reform
the welfare state and stressed that the big challenges facing the
country were child care, increasing employment, public health and
pension reform.

He pledged to “move from a welfare state that relieves
poverty and provides basic services to one which offers high
quality services and the opportunity for all to fulfil their
potential to the full”.

The prime minister re-iterated education secretary Charles
Clarke’s earlier promises to develop “universal, good
quality, affordable childcare for children aged 3-14 shaped around
parents and children’s needs”. This would include an
expansion of provision for under-fives and give parents more choice
between public, private and voluntary sectors including nurseries
and childminders.

Full proposals on new support to help parents manage work and
life commitments would be revealed over the coming months he

The prime minister also pledged to help people
“trapped” on benefits and highlighted the
government’s new approaches to helping people receiving
incapacity benefit return to work through the Pathways to Work
initiatives, which were hailed as a success yesterday by Alan
Johnson, the work and pensions secretary.

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