Warning on drug treatment plan

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The Independent Online
Plans to force drug addicts who burgle and steal to feed their habits to undergo treatment could fail without more work on supervision of offenders in the community, the Government is warned today.

Introduction of new drug treatment and testing orders was a major plank of Home Secretary Jack Straw's flagship Crime and Disorder Bill, published this month. But in a report today, the Chief Inspector of Probation, Graham Smith, said that in some parts of the country supervision of addicts in the community by probation services was often "unsatisfactory".

There was "a demanding agenda of work for probation policy-makers, managers and practitioners if the Government's proposals on drug testing and treatment orders are to be effectively implemented", he said. A sample survey of probation services showed that in most areas the supervision plans drawn up for offenders with drugs problems were "inadequate", the report said.

Fewer than half the plans inspectors studied came up to nationally laid down standards, which was a "significant contributor" to the unsatisfactory supervision of offenders. "Often the plans were too general and unspecific, lacking clear objectives and identification of responsibility for action, etc," the report said.

In some areas, the problems of fewer than half the drug abusers who were referred to the probation service were properly assessed. "Some representatives from health and voluntary agencies did express concerns about drug misusing offenders being `sentenced to treatment' and it was clear that in some parts of the country, and in some agencies, it was unlikely that this view would change easily," it said.

On the plus side, it said the majority of offenders receiving drug treatment - up to 80 per cent in some areas - were judged to be controlling or reducing their drug misuse, with the standards of supervision satisfactory or better.