Welsh Government Substance Misuse Strategy Review

Evaluation Services, Research Services
On Behalf of: Social Research and Information Division, Welsh Government
Conducted in Partnership with: Wrexham Glyndŵr University
Brief overview of project:

Working Together to Reduce Harm: The Substance Misuse Strategy for Wales 2008-2018 (“the Strategy”) is the second substantive and dedicated Welsh Government response to a set of established and negative consequences of alcohol and other drug use.

The Strategy aimed to set out a clear national agenda for how the Welsh Government and its partners could tackle and reduce the harms associated with substance misuse in Wales.

It identified four significant areas of activity which were perceived as being able to impact on these consequences:

  • preventing harm;
  • support for substance misusers – to improve their health and aid and maintain recovery;
  • supporting and protecting families; and
  • tackling availability and protecting individuals and communities via enforcement activity.

An additional fifth strand was included within the Strategy which focused on delivering the Strategy and supporting partner agencies (through increasingly developed and robust partnership arrangements).

In September 2016 Figure 8 Consultancy Services Ltd. and Glyndŵr University (Wrexham) were commissioned by the Welsh Government to undertake a review of the Strategy.

Dates of Project:
September 2016 - April 2018
Purpose of Project:

The overarching aim of the review was to assess the extent to which the observed outcomes are attributable to the actions developed and implemented because of the Strategy.

Key Aims/Objectives:

The main objectives of the review were:

  • to use existing evidence and data to assess the contribution that the strategy has made;
  • to identify gaps in the existing data that need to be filled to strengthen the contribution assessment; and
  • to consider the efficacy and applicability of performance measures used within the Strategy and accompanying Implementation Plans.
Work completed:

The main report provides an overview of the strategy since its inception. In doing so, it utilises a Contribution Analysis approach to tell an overall performance story. This accounts for starting positions, activity undertaken, its contribution to identifiable outcomes and notes the evidence sources for conclusions reached.

The report refers to, and builds upon, the range of background and contextual information presented in a variety of previous Welsh Government documents.

Outcomes of Project:
  • In summary, the ‘performance story’ we have outlined in this report tells of a specifically devolved response to the consequences of alcohol and other drug consumption.
  • Within this response, some significant activity and achievements can be identified. These ‘successes’, as befitting the context and focus of the Strategy, are mainly in the areas of harm reduction and harmful users. The sense we have is that it has done what it set out to do, by concentrating on a harm reduction agenda; and that this was, and has been broadly welcomed. It is clear to all that the journey set off on a harm reduction, rather than whole population or general use, trajectory.
  • There has been significant improvement in co-ordination, partnership and monitoring arrangements over the Strategy term.
  • There is good evidence of improvement in, and sustained service delivery, as well as accounting for monies spent.
  • There is some evidence of outputs and short-term outcome success.
  • There is limited evidence of long-term outcome impact.
  • Research evidence supports many but not all the activities prioritised by Welsh Government.
  • We have highlighted how a move to more active Service User Involvement is one of the clear achievements of this strategy period. However, we also reported on how ensuring that this is inclusive, representative and definitely not tokenistic, remains a challenge. For example, and consistent with the preferred direction of travel as described, it is worth noting that term service user is, in some people’s minds, more synonymous with drug users rather than drinkers. We believe it is more than just a question of semantics.
  • We conclude this ‘performance story’ by applauding the progress made, yet identifying the key future challenges associated with translating this platform into one that is more responsive to whole and more distinct populations of users, and integration with ‘Well-being’ and ‘Future Generations’ agendas.

Read Full Report about this project...