29th March issue

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Family fortunes

Let’s not play roulette

Despite family support being a central part of the current drug strategy, it has for years been poorly funded and sporadic. Whatever election promises are being made to make family life easier, they’re unlikely to relate to substance misuse. It doesn’t fit the billboards or the Saatchi campaigns and family services know they will continue to fight for attention – yet there will be no let-up in demand for them. Adfam’s manifesto (cover story, page 6) offers a survival kit for working smarter, to make sure the essentials of family support are not tossed overboard in a turbulent climate. Tightened budgets need not compromise clever commissioning and appropriate training to make sure workers can tune in properly to families’ needs. Active data collection and monitoring must take place to make sure services provide the best value they can. And a concerted effort to influence and share knowledge with the services we connect with is an opportunity not to be ignored when everyone’s looking for better ways to to run services on a shoestring. The UKDPC estimates that there are at least 1.5m people in this country who are significantly affected by a relative’s drug use – and these are the ones who live with the effects day by day. It doesn’t even include the many other family members and friends that you feel powerless to get near. We all know that the scale of the problem is a howling mismatch with the level of service provision. As Adfam’s manifesto suggests and their conference reinforced, only tight working partnerships and continual knowledge about this complicated area of work will help families get the help they need, right from the crucial early stages. Carole Sharma’s suggestion to skill up and specialise in every way you can is a good one – and a timely reminder that waiting for a new government to sharpen its axe will help no one at all. See you again on 26 April after a break of one issue. Keep the letters coming and have a great Easter!

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