Since October last year, Southampton City Council has been looking into how to reduce drug related litter in the city with a focus on keeping the community safe. This comes after there were 7,567 items of drug related litter found across the city in 2016/17, 95% of which were in the city centre.
This has been undertaken by an official scrutiny panel made up of local councillors, who have examined evidence through reading reports and inviting several experts and community groups to present and join in with discussions.
On yesterday (8th Marc), the final scrutiny panel meeting was held. During which, they discussed the draft report and a number of recommendations that were to be made, before presenting it to the cabinet for further discussion in April. There were five recommendations, all of which were supported over all, after clarifying amendments, and additional recommendations were added to further the focus on community safety.
The most potentially controversial of the recommendations, which was discussed at length in the third meeting (and was picked up by local news), is around drug consumption rooms. Drug consumption rooms are spaces that allow those who use substances to attend the facility, and consume their substances under medical observation, which come in many different formats. To find out more, head over to this piece published by Transform last year.
There were two recommendations made by the panel on this topic; to undertake a robust evaluation of the potential costs and benefits that a pilot drug consumption room could bring to Southampton, and if there is evidence of need for this provision in our city, to work with other organisations to lobby the government for a change in legislation to allow for these services to exist. Facilities like this already exist across the world, and have been proven to reduce drug related litter and numerous harms related to substance use that affect both individuals and communities. Despite the numerous benefits linked to drug consumption rooms, the most recent attempt to create a facility like this in the UK, specifically Glasgow, was blocked by the Home Office due to legal implications despite the official government advisory board (the AMCD) supporting the setting up of drug consumption rooms.
All of the discussion and recommendations are public and the agendas, evidence and first draft report can be found here, and if any students are concerned or want to know more please contact your VP Welfare & Community, Hanna Head on firstname.lastname@example.org or @SolentWelfare. For advice and support on drug use, visit TalkingDrugs or contact No Limits. If you find any drug related litter in the city, report it to the council here.
By Hanna Head