On Thursday 2 October, Members of the Health and Social Care Committee divided in order to hold two simultaneous visits in north and south Wales. The purpose of the visits was to discuss the Committee’s inquiry into new psychoactive substances (also known as ‘legal highs’) with service users and service providers.
Darren Millar AM, Janet Finch-Saunders AM and the Chair of the Committee, David Rees AM, travelled to Wrexham.
The day started with a visit to the LOTS (Life on the street) project, which is a project established by the Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham (AVOW). Members spoke with people who have been affected by new psychoactive substances, talking about the impact their use has had on them, how easy they are to obtain, and the ways in which the Welsh Government and others could help tackle the problem.
After visiting the LOTS project, Members met with staff at Dan 24/7, Wales’ publicly funded drug and alcohol helpline. Discussions were held about the number and type of calls the helpline takes every day, and the way the helpline is currently being promoted to the people of Wales.
The last discussion of the day took place at Glyndwr University. Here, Members met with focus groups of front line staff from the NHS, the police force, charities and various other organisations currently dealing with the impact of new psychoactive substances. These discussions lasted an hour and were followed by Assembly Members feeding back the main points from their tables for all attendees to hear.
The main points for discussion at the focus group discussions included:
- Is the availability and capacity of services to provide support to users of new psychoactive substances adequate, and how could these services be improved?
- What different factors and approaches need to be considered when dealing with the use of new psychoactive substances in the rural / urban setting?
- Is the level of coordination, both within Wales and between the Welsh and UK Governments in tackling the issue of the use of new psychoactive substances sufficient, and what needs to be done to improve these partnerships?
- What different levers should be utilised in order to tackle new psychoactive substances, for example legislation, enforcement activity (trading standards) etc.?
In south Wales John Griffiths AM, Kirsty Williams AM, Lynne Neagle AM, Gwyn Price AM and Lindsay Whittle AM visited Drugaid Cymru in Caerphilly to discuss issues around new psychoactive substances with staff and service users. Later, Members visited a group of young people who have been involved in a filming project – called Choices – through the Fixers and Forsythia Youth Project in Merthyr Tydfil. This film explores the effects of using new psychoactive substances on young people and their families; you can watch it here:
As was the case in Wrexham, the day in Merthyr ended with focus group discussions. You can see pictures from the Merthyr focus groups here:
You can watch video clips from Assembly Members and event attendees here:
The Committee has extended the deadline for the submission of written evidence until Friday 17 October 2014. For more information about how to submit evidence please visit our website:
The Committee will now take oral evidence from various organisations and individuals as well as the Minister for Health and Social Care in the Senedd, Cardiff Bay. These sessions are due to take place on 6, 12 and 26 November. You can watch the sessions on senedd.tv or you can reserve a space in the public gallery by contacting the Assembly’s booking line. The Committee will then consider its findings and write a report, which will include recommendations to the Welsh Government.
Once the report is published you will be able to view it here: http://www.senedd.assemblywales.org/mgConsultationDisplay.aspx?id=135&RPID=1504375700&cp=yes.
You can keep up to date with the Committee’s inquiry by following @seneddhealth on twitter or visiting the inquiry’s Storify page. Both will provide regular updates on progress.
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