Wandsworth Council has slammed its own drug and alcohol treatment service, outsourced at a cost of £5m a year to the taxpayer.
Specialists paid by the council to deal with Wandsworth’s drug addicts and alcoholics have a year to fix the service or lose out on the cash after a scathing review by the director of public health Houda Al Sharifi.
The director of public health Houda Al Sharifi
In her report Ms Al Sharifi labelled the service’s performance against targets “poor”, said there were systematic problems and it “consistently failed” to achieve targets for treating people.
The borough has a lower than national drug treatment rate and some services are being provided by a number of agencies with poor communication and a lack of joint working she added.
The report also said the service appears to replace addiction with long-term maintenance.
After being given responsibility for public health in April 2013, Wandsworth Council took on contracts arranged in 2012 with the Primary Care Trust with a number of organisations to take over treating those with alcohol and drug problems, paying £5m a year from a Government grant.
The biggest recipients of this fund are KCA (formerly Kent Council for Addictions) and Blenheim Community Drugs Projects, which received more than £3.1m for their services.
A number of other companies contribute to the service with much smaller contracts.
Following the report providers could lose the contract as early as April next year.
The council hopes a new model could save £0.5m by reducing the number of alcohol day programme providers, which offer support to adults with one-to-one sessions, group work and peer support.
Ryan Campbell, chief executive of KCA, spoke on behalf of both KCA and Blenheim, known collectively as Wandsworth’s Integrated Drug and Alcohol Services.
From addiction to long-term maintenance
He said: “Wandsworth is a complex borough with some difficult problems.
“The system is improving and is significantly better then it was a couple of years ago.
“There wasn’t a blood-borne virus service or peer mentoring and these are now in place.
“The report also picks out uncoordinated outreach approach and there is now a co-ordinated approach across the borough. We have also seen significant increase in the number of people getting help for alcohol use.
“However, changes do need to be made. Clearly the system isn’t yet good enough.”
A spokesman for Wandsworth Council said: “These problems became apparent when the council inherited running the service in April 2013, and since then we have been working with the lead treatment agency to get things back on track.
“This has been successful in a number of crucial areas and we are now seeing more people benefiting from treatment for alcohol misuse than ever before.”
Robert Daines runs an alcohol counselling service, A Better Tomorrow, in Wandsworth and works part time with NHS funded alcohol treatment services.
He said: “Wandsworth is not alone in this problem. I feel that all too often those tendering for alcohol or drug contracts promise the funders more than they can realistically deliver.
“Constant retendering in the alcohol treatment field, when these promises are not met, allied with cutbacks in funding and wage freezes have led to many counsellors leaving the field and those that remain having increased workloads with the expectation to see more clients in a shorter space of time to hit targets imposed by the funding bodies commissioners.”