£43m of investment needed for youth addiction services

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is calling for £43 million of investment into youth addiction services to prevent lifelong addiction.

The college says that drastic cuts to youth addiction services mean thousands of young people with drug or alcohol problems are missing out on specialist help, potentially sentencing them to a life of addiction.

New analysis shows that £26 million (37 per cent) in real terms has been cut from youth addiction services in England between 2013/14 and 2019/20. Eight of the nine regions in England made real terms cuts, with services in the North West (£9.3 million), the West Midlands (£7.6 million), and London (£4.6 million) hit hardest.

The number of young people accessing treatment in England has fallen by 40 per cent,  down from 14,802 in 2014/15 to 8,835 in 2020/21, across the period from April-January. The largest decrease was in 2020/21 which could reflect additional difficulties for young people in accessing services during the pandemic.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is now calling on the government to boost public health funding for councils by £43 million in real terms. This money is urgently needed to bring spending on youth addictions services back to at least the 2013/14 level, equivalent to 2.4 per cent of public health spending.

Dr Emily Finch, vice-chair of the addictions faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “These cuts risk condemning a generation of vulnerable young people with drug or alcohol problems to a lifetime of dependence and poor health, or in some cases, an early death.

“It’s completely unsustainable and unbelievably short-sighted. We need to wake-up to the fact that money spent on addictions services saves the NHS a whole lot more in the long run, whether that’s in A&E or in other mental health services. On top of all this, the pandemic has made a dire situation even worse, as even more young people have been left unable to access services.”

Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “More young people will continue to have their lives blighted by the harms of drugs and alcohol unless the government acts now and commits to substantial investment in public health, including youth addictions services.

“Addictions services do have a cost, but the cost of addiction to society is far greater. The £43 million we are calling for is nothing less than an essential investment in the health of our young people.”

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