There is a clear and present need for stakeholders to act now to reduce drug-related harm in the NTE. As this report has detailed, this harm has increased dramatically in recent years, affecting greater numbers of people, increasing costs for our emergency services, threatening the operation of licensed venues, and damaging the reputation of the NTE among local communities. Despite this, policy solutions have not kept pace with a rapidly changing drug market, leaving a new generation of young clubbers at risk.
Implementation of Effective Initiatives Should Not be Delayed
“Currently it feels like relationships with the local authority are regressing back to the dark ages and at a time when we should be putting the welfare of the public at the front of our operations, we are sadly failing them. I believe that in 5-10 years we will have drug testing in UK clubs but unfortunately the local authority and police need a few more people to die before they consider more harm reduction and that is a sad, sad, fact, and counter to what we have an obligation to do.”
– Electronic music venue manager
The history of drug-related harm in the NTE reveals that individual drug-related deaths have acted as a catalyst for many policy and licensing developments relating to drugs, whether progressive, such as Manchester City Council’s early adoption of Newcombe’s Safer Dancing Guidelines over 25 years ago, or regressive, such as the repeated attempts to close Fabric in London, the successful closure of the Arches in Glasgow and the Rainbow in Birmingham, and the precarious existence of many other venues linked to club drug deaths. Authorities should not wait for another death to review their strategies for reducing drug-related harm.
There in an increasing need for new initiatives that prevent drug use and reduce drug-related harm in the NTE, that can change the behaviour of club drug users away from risky consumption practices, and that enable venues to better protect their customers. The four initiatives proposed in this report meet these needs, and careful consideration should be given to their prompt implementation in appropriate areas.
The moral case for failing to act until another death occurs in the NTE is inexcusable, but the practical and economic cases are also compelling. By failing to address increased drug-related harm, police and emergency health services are put under increasing strain at peak times, and the local economies that rely on the NTE are put at risk.
Creating Orderly, Enjoyable and Inclusive Night Time Economies
The four initiatives proposed in this report not only mitigate against the worst harms of club drug use, but also seek to reduce the disorder and antisocial behaviour associated with alcohol and drug consumption in the NTE. They present opportunities to address excessive alcohol use and other public health concerns, and enable members of the public to take responsibility for their own health, wellbeing and actions. In doing so, these initiatives promote more orderly, enjoyable and inclusive NTEs.
The Perceived Barriers to Implementation of Initiatives are Soluble
There is a common understanding among all stakeholders that greater efforts should be made to reduce drug-related harm in the NTE. As this report has demonstrated, the perceived barriers to the implementation of the proposed initiatives can be overcome by appreciating their wider impact on venues, police, emergency and public health services, and by ensuring that initiatives are introduced that adhere to best practice, and through partnership approaches that align with town and city NTE strategies.
Specifically, this report has demonstrated that these initiatives:
- Strengthen venues’ ability to uphold the objectives of the Licensing Act 2003, supporting both the prevention of crime and the promotion of public safety;
- Provide a distinctive and effective means of reducing drug and alcohol-related harm;
- Promote vibrant and orderly night time environments;
- Reduce the workload of security staff, police and health services that work in the NTE;
- Promote partnership working between industry and other stakeholders;
- Add value to local public health strategies by addressing wider public health harms beyond club drug use to ‘make every contact count’, and by providing a valuable point of contact for a demographic that rarely engages with public services.
- Introduction of four key initiatives for the night time economies of our towns and cities:
- Drug safety testing services available to the general public in night life districts;
- An independent information campaign to reduce drug-related harm;
- Training for night life staff in how to respond effectively to drug use in the NTE;
- The adoption of the UK festival drug policy of ‘3Ps: Prevent, Pursue, Protect’ in licensed venues.
- All stakeholders in the NTE ensure that they are informed of the value of the NTE, the harms relating to drug use in the NTE, and how these initiatives reduce drug and alcohol harms.
- Licensing officers and committees to consider the inclusion of these initiatives in licensing conditions of appropriate venues.
- Where initiatives are introduced, that they are done so adhering to best practice, and through partnership approaches with the support of all stakeholders.
- Where initiatives are introduced, consideration is given to how partnerships between public health, the media, and the event production and night time industries can add value to these initiatives.
- Initiatives are introduced to complement and support existing measures to reduce drug and alcohol-related harm in the NTE, not to replace existing measures.
- NTE strategies should be reviewed and updated to include a plan for reducing drug-related harm.
- Funding for initiatives is sourced primarily from multi-agency partnerships that include businesses in the night time industry, but also from the budgets of other stakeholders that benefit from their implementation. Business Improvement Districts, Late Night Levies and local NTE business groups present good options for sourcing industry funding. Drug safety testing services and an independent information campaign would benefit from primarily sourcing multi agency funding, while training to respond to drug use in the NTE and adoption of 3Ps drug policy may be more easily funded primarily from businesses and night time industry sources. A national network of club drug centres would benefit from national public funding.
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