NTA reveals unacceptable youth drugs services finding

The National Treatment Agency has said variations in the quality and funding of specialist substance misuse services for young people in England are “unacceptable”.

A review by the NTA – the Department of Health drug treatment body – and the former Department for Education and Skills called for service improvements, it revealed.

The NTA referred to the review as it announced it would be taking over government leadership on substance misuse services for under-18s from the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

But an NTA spokesperson said the full contents of the study would not be published because it was an “internal ministerial review”.

Drugs organisations welcomed the move to give the NTA leadership over young people’s substance misuse but called for more funds.

Martin Barnes, chief executive of charity Drugscope, which has more than 1,000 members from drugs organisations, said he hoped the NTA would “fill a vacuum” in government focus on youth drug services.

But he warned that many services were being hit by cuts in the pooled young people’s substance misuse grant, which has been reduced to £55.2m for 2007-8 from £61.8m in 2006-7.

A recent survey by Drugscope’s magazine, Druglink, has found several services have been threatened with closure. One in Brighton reported it had to “substantially” scale down services for children whose parents misuse substances from dealing with more than 40 children a year to just 25.

And in Cheshire, the young people’s arrest referral service was decommissioned and the looked-after children substance misuse service was reconfigured as a “direct result” of the cut.

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