Agencies are failing drug addicts

Agencies are failing hundreds of drug misusers because they are referring them to out-of-area treatment centres without checking if they will receive adequate care, it has been claimed.

The concerns have been mooted by MPs and organisations in Weston-super-Mare, which has 10 per cent of the country’s drug rehabilitation places.

John Penrose, MP for Weston-super-Mare, accused referral agencies, including councils and probation services, of failing to inform local social services when referring people to the area.

“Referral agencies are not following up hundreds of clients. They are failing in their duty of care,” he said.

Penrose also claimed agencies were not checking whether treatment centres were properly regulated, leaving people at risk.

An investigation by Avon and Somerset police earlier this year found that 15 people in Weston-super-Mare who were not in registered rehabilitation centres died of drug-related causes from 1 January 2003 to 31 August 2004.

It also found that offenders referred from other areas of the country for treatment as part of a drug treatment order were being placed in “inappropriate” accommodation without the knowledge of local social and probation services.

Last month, as part of an initiative to tackle the problem, North Somerset Council distributed a national probation notice to prevent the referral of offenders from outside the area to two centres identified as being unsuitable for drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

Another ‘dry house’ in Weston-super-Mare for people overcoming addiction had a £36,000 Supporting People grant withdrawn following issues surrounding its management.

Bram Tout, drug and alcohol co-ordinator for North Somerset, said he believed the lack of follow-up by referral agencies was not confined to the area.

“This is happening at a national level,” he said. “It is seen as cheaper to refer people out of area, but many drug referral agencies across the country do not have the capacity to follow people up.”

Tout estimated that probation services and councils outside of North Somerset referred 200-300 people every year to registered drug treatment beds in the area without notifying the local social services.

But he confirmed that only two councils had notified North Somerset social services of a total of 29 out-of-area referrals over the past year.

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