Drink and Drugs News DDN June 2020 - Page 4

NEWS ROUND-UP Don’t squander chance to end rough sleeping, urge parliamentarians The government needs to establish a £100m housing support fund to avoid losing a ‘golden opportunity’ to put an end to rough sleeping, says a report from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee. Around 90 per cent of rough sleepers – approximately 5,400 people – have been housed in temporary accommodation in response to COVID-19, providing a ‘unique opportunity to eradicate rough London, May 2020: Homeless people erect tents on Tottenham Court Road. Credit: Monica Wells/Alamy sleeping in England for once and for all’, says the committee. It wants to see at least £100m a year dedicated to long-term housing support to avoid the thousands of people in temporary accommodation ending up back on the streets, and warns of a ‘looming homelessness crisis’ as the threemonth ban on evictions expires. The government needs to work quickly to put in place a housingbased exit strategy and a dedicated funding stream to support it, the committee urges. The government recently denied press reports that it was about to stop funding the scheme to provide emergency accommodation for rough sleepers in hotels, with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) stating that it would ‘work with partners to ensure rough sleepers can move into longterm, safe accommodation once the immediate crisis is over’. However London mayor Sadiq Khan has warned that funding to house rough sleepers in hotels in the capital will run out in mid June, telling the Guardian that without new government money there would be a ‘surge’ in homeless people returning to the streets. ‘We must praise the efforts of all those who have done so much to help take people of the streets during the current health emergency, but what happens next is crucial,’ said Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee chair Clive Betts. ‘It is simply not good enough for anyone to leave temporary accommodation and end up back on the streets. This isn't just about protecting vulnerable people from COVID-19. It is not safe to live on the streets in any circumstances, and it is not acceptable to allow it to return once the health crisis abates. For the first time in over a decade rough sleepers have been comprehensively taken off the streets and given accommodation. This must become the new norm.’ Meanwhile, St Mungo’s has launched a campaign, No going back, which is calling for funding to be put in place for local authorities to ensure that no one is made to leave emergency accommodation without being offered suitable alternative housing, as well as for more housing and support for people with complex needs. ‘If the government takes action now thousands of people can be helped off the streets permanently,’ it says. Protecting rough sleepers and renters at https://publications. parliament.uk/pa/cm5801/cmselect/ cmcomloc/309/30902.htm No going back campaign at www. mungos.org Scottish Government widens availability of naloxone COVID-19 reducing drug supplies THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT has widened the availability of naloxone as part of a package of support for people affected by drug use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other measures include £1.9m to support people on OST while in prison to switch to prolonged-release buprenorphine injections, and an ‘enhanced offer of residential rehab’ for people leaving prison during the outbreak in order to reduce pressure on local services. Under current UK regulations, only drug treatment services are allowed to supply take-home naloxone kits. However, Scotland’s lord advocate has confirmed that it would ‘not be in the public interest’ to prosecute anyone working for a service registered with the Scottish Government – for example, a homelessness organisation – who supplies naloxone for use in an emergency during the crisis. Non-drug treatment services will need to register with the Scottish Government to become a naloxone provider. It would ‘not be in the public interest’ to prosecute anyone working for a service registered with the Scottish Government. HEROIN SHORTAGES have been reported in Europe, North America and South West Asia, according to a UNODC report on COVID-19 and drug supply, increasing the risk that people may switch to fentanyl or its derivatives. Afghanistan’s poppy harvest is being affected by the pandemic, as is cocaine production in Colombia, which has been hit by gasoline shortages. Disruption of air and land routes because of COVID-19 has also had a major impact on drug supply. ‘In the long run, the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to lead to a lasting and profound transformation of the drug markets,’ says the agency. ‘The economic difficulties caused by COVID-19 may affect people who are already in position of socioeconomic disadvantage harder than others.’ COVID-19 and the drug supply chain: from production and trafficking to use available at www.unodc.org 4 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • JUNE 2020 WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM