Posted on: 6 December, 2021
On the day of Government’s new drug strategy, in the West Midlands, a partnership between Cranstoun, the Police and Crime Commissioner and Probation announce a cost avoidance figure of over £15 million from the Cranstoun Arrest Referral Service.
The new Government drug strategy is expected to announce over £530m for drug treatment with the remaining £170m for Criminal Justice.
Evidence from the West Midlands has been key to supporting a national change of approach to treating drugs as a health issue as well as a criminal justice one.
In partnership with the charity Cranstoun, a service commissioned by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner and supported by West Midlands Probation Service has saved over £15 million to the taxpayer.
The Cranstoun Arrest Referral Service was commissioned by the PCC as part of the 8 point approach to drugs, published in 2018. The service operates from within the police custody suites of West Midlands Police and engages those that use drugs and alcohol either via a Required Assessment following a Custody Drug Test or via a voluntary assessment following a cell sweep. Specialist Workers provide assessments, initial harm reduction advice and onward referral, Community Order Suitability Assessments as well as Naloxone and Needle Exchange.
The Cranstoun team work in partnership with Probation and Court colleagues to assess individuals who may be suitable for an alternative to custody, reducing the numbers of short term custodial sentences and increasing referrals into treatment for those who want support. Earlier this year, the service was featured in the Probation Service’s effective practice guide as an example of best practice.
In 2020, over 1000 people were supported into local drug and alcohol treatment. Over 397 were issued with a Drug Rehabilitation Requirement or Alcohol Treatment Requirement at court, instead of a short term prison sentence. Together, this cost avoidance figure is estimated to be over £15 million
The approach in the West Midlands also includes pre-arrest drug diversion. The DIVERT™ programme, developed and delivered by Cranstoun and funded by the PCC is suitable for anyone found in possession of any drug. The person is referred to Cranstoun, instead of the criminal justice system and offered a course focused on education and harm reduction. For over 95% of people who are referred, they have never previously sought any support for drug or alcohol use.
The Criminal Justice system can be an effective way to engage with people to use drugs, it is about having the right intervention at the right time. There is not a one size fits all approach and harm reduction, education and diversion are proven to reduce risks from drug use and engage people into treatment that is right for them.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster:
““The consequences of substance misuse are enormous and we have to consider new ways to prevent and reduce the harm and cost of drugs to people and wider society. That has to include getting people into treatment and programmes to reduce offending.
“The CARS programme is not only helping us break the cycle of crime and giving people their lives back, it is also helping save the taxpayer money.
“Our drugs policy has been leading the way nationally and I’m pleased that other forces have also commissioned this ground-breaking service that is really making a difference.”
Meg Jones, Director of New Business and Services at Cranstoun:
“We welcome the investment in substance use treatment, following the recommendations in the Dame Carol Black report. We have been delivering diversion and criminal justice interventions in areas such as the West Midlands, West Mercia and Thames Valley and are pleased to see Government recognising that this approach reduces harm, reduces cost, and reduces crime and demand to policing. This is a real move towards seeing substance use as a health issue, not a criminal justice one.
We hope that Government will continue to work with us and the wider sector on funding and support for additional harm reduction measures and work to reduce stigma for people who use drugs.
We will continue to work cross-party to deliver evidence-informed practical solutions to reduce drug related deaths and associated harms. We call on all politicians to work with us to listen and be driven by the evidence from across the world”.
Sarah Chand, Director for Probation Service, West Midlands
“I am delighted that we are working in partnership with Cranstoun and the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner to ensure that individuals are identified as swiftly as possible and then supported into treatment to really tackle the cause of their offending behaviour. Schemes such as these help to stop the revolving door of short term custodial sentences and instead support long term and sustainable change for those who use drugs and alcohol. Not only does it benefit the individuals, it also benefits the wider community, with less reoffending, fewer victims and savings which can be reinvested”.
 NHS & NTA document ‘Estimating the Crime Reduction Benefits of Drug Treatment and Recovery’ (NTA 2012). Estimates can be divided by the number of clients in effective treatment to estimate the counterfactual costs of offending per person in 2010- 11. The estimated cost per person, using the midpoint estimate, is £26,074, with an estimated range of £19,559 to £32,589.