Bravo, Paul Hayes, for declaring the direct interest of the National Treatment Agency in the green paper on welfare 'reform'.
I was at Mo Mowlam's original launch of the NTA - I can even remember the initial Home Office suggestion for a national umbrella agency for drug treatment in 1988, when I joined a fledgling regional drug problem team. In Mr Hayes' terms, perhaps I do have "a view about what is really going on".
He challenges HSJ: "You assert that the government intends to force drug users into treatment." Let us look at the precise wording of the green paper, under its heading, "A new regime for problem drug users":
Section 2.37: "Those identified will [then] be required to see a drug treatment provider."
Section 2.39: "Rules to require all applicants for benefit to declare whether they are addicted to heroin or crack cocaine."
Section 2.41: "Once a problem drug use has been identified, those who are not in drug treatment already will be required to see a drug treatment provider."
Section 2.43: "There will be an obligation on individuals to take it [treatment] up."
Sections 2.39 and 2.43 also refer to "sanctions".
Does that not sound like forcing drug users into treatment?
Tragically, in the current systems, treatment is not always individual or effective. For example, the 2007 National Evaluation of Crack Cocaine Treatment and Outcome Study report for the NTA on its flagship specialist crack services is hardly likely to inspire readers. The key insight comes from a recent speech by Paul Hayes himself on 18 July: "In order to offer drug users high quality and effective services of any description, we need to raise our game." So what is really going on?
Woody Caan, professor of public health, Anglia Ruskin University