Funding for Southend as drug deaths climb

Southend is set to get a slice of £780million Government funding to tackle drug use as deaths in the city reach a ten-year high.

The government has selected Southend to receive the funding as one of the areas most affected by drug use and its consequent crime.

The city is said to have higher than average homelessness and consequently more drug and alcohol problems The latest figures on drugs deaths from 2020 show there were 12 drug-related deaths in Southend, up from six in 2016 and just three in 2012.

Jamie Pennycott, Southend Council’s drug and alcohol commissioning officer, explained the funding, which followed two Government reviews of drug use and treatment, to councillors on the health and wellbeing committee on Wednesday.

He said: “Dame Carol Black led two reviews one of which looked at the drug market nationally and the crime associated with it.

“The second review focussed on the treatment sector and the ability of the sector to meet the needs of substance users.

“The key findings were pretty damning overall. Nationally, for a decade from 2000 onwards where we’d seen a reduction in drug rates and improvement made in drug deaths, in the last ten years we’ve seen that trend reverse.”

The funding will be released in phases over three years, with Southend getting some funding in April and the rest from the second tranche in 2023.

Initially, a strategic partnership board will be formed and will include a range of organisations such as police and healthcare.

The board will have oversight over commissioning drug and alcohol treatment services and prevention such as a schools-based drug education programme.

Mr Pennycott added: “Drug use is going up. Drug related deaths are at an all-time high.

The drug market continues to be lucrative and individuals are being drawn into county lines – exploitation of young people, exploitation of vulnerable adults.

“The general feeling is the treatment sector has been somewhat stripped bare so we are left with over-stretched services that possibly don’t have the skills they used to have and its highlighted these problems can only really be addressed by effective commissioning across a whole range of different partners.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter