Friday, 27 June 2014

Devolved commissioning of victim and witness support services: an opportunity for substance misuse services?

Safer Future Communities Consultant Julia Mlambo, based at the London Voluntary Service Council (LSVC), gives us an insight into the way Ministry of Justice commissioning of victim and witness services is changing – and what that might mean for substance misuse services.

Historically the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) commissioned a range of victims and witness support services, nationally. However, from  April  to September 2014, the MoJ will be devolving funding to Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to enable them to commission services more responsive to local victims’ and witnesses’ needs.

After October 2014, the MoJ will still retain a small national specialist commissioning portfolio.  However, most of the services previously funded by the MoJ have been told that their funding will only be in place until the end of September. After that, it will be up to local PCCs to decide whether they want to continue to support them.

As well as devolving the commissioning of services, the MoJ has said that it will increase the amount of funding available to procure services, to encourage PCCs to commission innovative interventions. These new resources are likely to mean more opportunities for criminal justice related providers, including substance misuses services.

It is worth being aware of some of the key legislative and policy drivers that will affect the commissioning of victims and witness services over the next few years. Some of these are laid out below:

MoJ Victims' Service Commissioning Framework (May 2013) – Sets out principles to underpin the commissioning of Victims Services, setting out the 8 category of need. These are areas in which service providers should aim to support people to achieve improvements in their lives post victimisation. Categories include ‘mental and physical health, drugs and alcohol, finance and benefits etc. 

The EU Directive on Minimum Standards on the Rights, Support and Protection of Victims of Crime (2012) - The directive sets out victims’ rights, outlines what support should be available to victims and promotes the use of restorative justice interventions. 

Changes in the commissioning of health related justice services - responsibility for the commissioning services such as health care in police custody suites, sexual assault referral services (SARCs) will be transferred from the Police Service to NHS.  In light of these changes, in some areas, there are plans to retender these to improve costs and quality.

If your organisation offers innovative substance misuse interventions in the criminal justice field, you may find you have access to new funding opportunities.  Now is the time to contact your local PCC to see what their future commissioning intentions are.

Thanks to Julia Mlambo, Safer Future Communities Consultant, London Voluntary Service Council (LSVC) for this blog.  If you have any questions or would like any further information, please contact Julia at 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Voices from the Frontline: does your organisation support people with multiple needs?

We need the help of the drug and alcohol sector in shaping an important programme of work around people with multiple needs, and helping us to understand the impact of welfare reform and commissioning changes on this group. 

If your organisation works with clients who, as well as drug and alcohol problems, also experience problems such as homelessness, mental health and involvement with the criminal justice system, please spend 10-15 minutes completing our survey. Please note that the survey will close on 11 July. 

Voices from the Frontline 

"We want to have some control over our next steps. We want choices" 

Over the next two years the Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) coalition will be delivering Voices from the Frontline, a project to bring the voices of people with multiple needs and those who support them to the heart of the policy debate. The group of service users this project will seek to represent are those: 

  • Experiencing several problems at the same time such as mental ill health, homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, offending and family breakdown;
  • With ineffective contact with services; and 
  • Living chaotic lives.

Membership survey 

To start the project, the coalition partners, DrugScope, Mind, Clinks and Homeless Link, are surveying our member organisations to try and understand how two policy areas, access to services (commissioning changes) and access to benefits (welfare reform), are impacting on those with the most complex needs. 

We chose these two topics because they came up time and again in the sector surveys carried out by the MEAM coalition partners. For example, in the research we did for DrugScope’s State of the Sector report, one complex needs service manager told us: 

"I know of people who have been repeatedly cut off from benefits in the
 middle of serious physical and mental health problems and treatments, 
whose cases have gone to court or tribunal repeatedly, and repeated 
judgements in court say that they should not have been cut off.” 

This survey is our first step in building a picture of how these important changes to services and support are seen by people with multiple needs and by those working with them most closely. The findings will inform our work over the next two years, which will help policy makers nationally and locally shape policy both in the run up to the general election and beyond. 

What to do next 

If your organisation works with multiple needs clients, this is your opportunity to help us understand the situation in the areas you work in. Please spend 10-15 minutes helping us by completing the survey. The survey will close on 11 July. 

If you have any questions about the survey, or would like to find out more about the project, contact Sam Thomas (, who is managing Voices from the Frontline.

Monday, 23 June 2014

A threat to us all: tackling organised crime a priority for Home Secretary

On the 11 June the Home Secretary gave a speech about organised crime and illicit finance, as you might expect drugs played an important part in her analysis of the problems that society faces as a result of the activities of these sorts of criminals.

As you’ll see she’s keen to portray organised crime as something that affects us all:

Most people don’t think of themselves as being a victim of organised crime, but the chances are that everyone in this room has been affected by organised crime in one form or another. Maybe you were caught up in their activities. Maybe your house was burgled by somebody addicted to drugs shipped here by a criminal gang. Maybe your emails were hacked. Maybe your insurance premiums are inflated because of organised scams. Maybe your taxes are higher because of fraud. Whatever your precise experience or experiences, the chances are that organised crime has affected all of us here today. 

She also suggested that it poses an existential threat to national security.

The threat from serious and organised crime is very significant and it is forever changing. Whether it is online or offline, overseas or at home, whether we are talking about drugs, stolen goods or trafficked people, organised crime amounts to a serious threat to our national security.

Her analysis of how those in organised crime create or use hollowed out states to create a alternative power structures (including justice, housing and jobs) is similar to that set out by Nils Gillman in his interesting lecture on deviant globalisation that you can hear here.

While decrying their value system May recognises that there is innovation in the ways that people involved in organised crime attempt to subvert the control systems that are in place.

Niche skills are bought to order – last year, for example, a drugs trafficking network brazenly hired cyber criminals to alter cargo manifests in an attempt to smuggle their goods in containers.

Her view of how this leaks into the legitimate market seemed to focus on individual corruption or exploitation rather than suggesting that there is systemic collusion between business and this huge illicit market.  But she announced there will be a cross-government anti-corruption plan in the next few weeks, which may take things further, meanwhile the approach she set out sees partnership rather than regulation being the way to reduce the threat of organised crime’s involvement in the financial sector.  She said that she’d recently met with chief executives from the financial services sector and there was going to be a Financial Sector Forum set up to share information on the “criminal finance and cyber threats we face”.

More broadly than the anti-corruption plan the Home Secretary also talked about the new Serious Crime Bill that was announced in the Queen’s Speech, and how this would close some loopholes in recovering the proceeds and assets of crime, and the wider strategy that the government have been pursuing in relation to serious and organised crime.

The take home messages for me were:

  • Her analysis of the problems posed by organised crime – that it affects us all, that organised crime can supplant the state if we don’t take care, and that there is innovation that needs to be countered – seems strong.
  • While drugs made up an important theme in her speech there’s no sense that I had that May is interested in really doing anything different to change drug policy other than to have a much stronger central control over serious crime enforcement responses.
  • She sees the financial sector as an important partner in addressing serious crime but recognises that corruption is an important tool that organised crime uses to enable it to operate.

Andrew Brown
Director of Policy, Influence and Engagement