A new report launched at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm today warns that the alcohol treatment sector is in crisis.
These services are entering into a cycle of disinvestment, staff depletion, and reduced capacity, and this is due to get worse; in 2020 ring-fenced public health funding will end, posing additional risk to the areas of highest need.
The report, ‘The hardest hit: Addressing the crisis in alcohol treatment services’, by the new alcohol charity formed by the merger of Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK, highlights how severe funding cuts, rapid re-tendering cycles, loss of qualified staff and lack of political support are impacting on some of the most vulnerable people in society.
It is estimated that around 595,000 people in England alone are dependent on alcohol and in need of specialist support. But only around 108,000 are receiving treatment for their alcohol dependency. This has a significant impact not only on the individual but on their families; around 200,000 children live in a household with an alcohol-dependent carer.[i]
In the UK roughly one person dies every hour as a result of alcohol. Over the past forty years we have seen liver disease rates in the UK increase by around 250% – far outstripping liver disease rates seen across much of the developed world, which have reduced in recent years.
Public Health England estimates that every £1 invested in alcohol treatment brings a social return of £3.
Among the findings only 12% of respondents felt that resources were sufficient in their area while respondents reported cuts of between 10% and 58%, with one treatment provider saying local areas were ‘paring back to a skeleton service.
59% of respondents felt that aspects of services in their area had worsened in the last three years, with particular threats to community detox and residential rehabilitation facilities and 62% of respondents said that in their area appropriate care is not available for people with both a mental health and an alcohol problem, with many told they must resolve their alcohol problems before they can access mental health services.
Dr Richard Piper, CEO of the new charity formed by the merger of Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK, said:
“Around 595,000 people in the UK are dependent on alcohol. It’s clear that the Government must develop a national alcohol strategy to address the harm they and their families face, and include treatment at its heart to reduce the suffering of the four in every five who currently do not access the services they need.
“This report shows very clearly what action is needed and we urge policy-makers, practitioners and service providers to join together to implement these recommendations to help the hundreds of thousands of people who are in desperate need of support.”