Hastings is set to receive £5 million funding from central government to address harms caused by the use and abuse of illicit drugs. 

The Home Office has selected the town as a pilot area for Project ADDER (Addiction, Disruption, Diversion, Enforcement, Recovery), a programme to assist agencies and organisations to work together to reduce the volume of deaths, criminal activities and anti-social behaviour relating to drug-taking.

The funding is to be spread over the next two-and-a-half years. Programmes will be directed by East Sussex County Council (ESCC), though also partially administered by Hastings Borough Council (HBC). 

Policy aims

ESCC say they aim to provide a range of interventions that reduce the supply of drugs, increase the number of drug users using treatment and recover services, and reduce drug-related re-offending. According to Cllr Carl Maynard, their lead member for Adult Social Care and Health, these interventions will include “increased enforcement against those supplying drugs.”

It is hoped that the cost to local health services and police forces will be cut and the number of young and vulnerable people safeguarded will increase.

Making a real difference

Cllr Tania Charman, who represents Old Hastings and Tressell wards on ESCC, says she has monitored the rise of both cannabis and cocaine use in the town over the past decade. She believes that the money could make a real difference in addressing problems of drug addiction, but only if it is used to fund structured community support rather than to apply tougher police enforcement or medicalised solutions. What’s needed, she says, is an action programme that’s formulated “from the bottom up” after genuine consultation both with the addicts themselves and with those who currently cope with them on the front line. 

She suggests that an initial sum – maybe £50,000, which is just 1% of the total being offered – be spent in convening workshops of people who have experience at ground level, reviewing with them what’s working within current policies, what might work with more resources, and what isn’t and won’t. “You can’t expect any programme to be successful unless the people whose behaviour you want to change are empowered,” she says.

One change in policy she would urge is dispersal of drugs hubs away from the town centre. “At the moment, the agencies which provide medical treatments, the chemists that supply prescribed drugs, and the drop-in centres that offer support, are all slap in the middle of town. No wonder that abusers of drugs and alcohol hang around there and make it their social centre on public show, and the council has to resort to public protection orders. I would set up dispersed hubs in Ore Valley, Silverhill and Hollington where drug addicts can be seen by local therapists and chemists. 

“I would also fund creative community projects that offer a real alternative, some hope for the future. There are community agencies, like CGL (Change, Grow, Live) in Brighton and We Are With You (formerly Addaction) based in London, which operate elsewhere. Here in Hastings the Seaview Centre has done excellent work recently. That’s where more funding would pay off. ”

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