Report of the Assistant Chief Executive & Chief Digital Officer
The Committee received information in relation to Substance Misuse as contained within the circulated report.
Officers informed the committee that following serious concerns regarding risks, threats and harm associated with substance misuse, including a rise in violence and preventable deaths that the Public Service Board had created a Critical Incident Group (CIG) made of members from partner organisations. Officers stated that the group were looking at issues across the local authority areas of Neath Port Talbot and Swansea. Officers explained that an action plan had been developed by the group and that the main priorities included freeing up Police capacity to deal with issues in relation to county lines by releasing police officers from hospitals sooner, and by minimising the amount of time spent on dealing with issues regarding Looked After Children. Officers stated that a dedicated officer from Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABMU) was now sitting in the South Wales Police call centre to provide advice on drug related issues and how to assist addicts. Officers explained that a lot of work was ongoing over the next few months, and that communication over the radio, digital and traditional means would take place so that communities and citizens knew what to look out for and how to report any issues. Officers stated that this would send a message to the crime gangs that partners were taking the matter seriously.
Officers reported that there were real concerns over the number of drug related deaths in Neath Port Talbot and Swansea. Officers stated that the group had identified a need to develop an outreach programme to identify and engage with people who were not receiving help through services provided by partner organisations. Officers stated that it was important to find, keep and treat these people. Officers explained that those who did engage with services and had addiction to various substances could wait up to two years for treatment, by which time they are taking a concoction of different substances to satisfy their addictions which were harmful and sometimes fatal. Officers stated that there needed to be swifter and immediate action taken. Officers explained that communication and reporting of rogue batches of substances between agencies in a timely manner would also save lives.
Officers reported some services needed to be re-commissioned in future to meet the need. Officers explained that school and universities had very universal programmes to educate young people when it was possible that a more targeted approach was required.
Officers informed the committee that the Area Planning Board (APB) had re-focused their priorities. Officers stated that drug related deaths had doubled in the past 10 years and that arrangements needed to be made fit for purpose. Officers informed the committee that there was a follow up meeting planned for December and that the Board would then assess the impact at the end of February. Officers suggested that the committee may want an update from the Board at some point to hold the APB to account.
Members referred to the second bullet point on appendix one of the report, and questioned how partners would assist the Police in freeing up time to disrupt drug related crimes; and the seventh bullet point and questioned how partners would remove barriers and silos to ensure effective working across partnership agencies. Officers explained that there was an issue around the amount of time that the Police were spending on cases regarding Looked After Children. Officers stated that the Council’s Chief Executive would be addressing the issue. Officers added that the Chair of the Critical Incident Group had also asked ABMU for the protocol for the ambulance service to be reviewed in order to free up time spent by Police officers at hospitals.
Members queried at which point would a looked after child be considered missing and would then become the responsibility of the Police. Chief Inspector Cahill stated that the missing child would become the responsibility of South Wales Police Western BCU and not just resources in Neath Port Talbot, from the moment the child was reported missing to the Police; however it had been discussed at the CIG whether action could be taken by providers and foster parents so that the Police were not always contacted in the first instance.