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Specialist substance misuse services for young people: Main principles for commissioning

In April 2013, commissioning drug and alcohol misuse treatment services became the responsibility of local authorities. At that point local authorities were given greater autonomy to develop their own approaches to meet local need and the previously ring-fenced budget for young people’s specialist substance misuse services became part of the wider local authority public health grant.

Public Health England (PHE) commissioned The Children’s Society to undertake scoping research in early 2016, to understand some of the opportunities and challenges currently facing those now responsible for commissioning and delivering young people’s specialist substance misuse services and to outline some critical good practice principles.

The findings reflect a snapshot of commissioning and provision in England, and do not constitute an exhaustive or systematic national review. Those interviewed were asked about: local commissioning practices and common service models; the evidence used in commissioning decisions around best practice; emerging local trends in substance misuse; and current opportunities and challenges for commissioning.

Young service users were invited to share their views on what they believe should constitute core components of a young person-centered service that responds to their needs, makes them likely to engage effectively and results in positive outcomes for them.

Four core commissioning principles have been developed, based on the findings, research and evidence based guidelines, for the commissioning and provision of specialist substance misuse provision for young people. The document is designed to provide prompts around some core principles for consideration when local authorities are commissioning specialist substance misuse provision, but is not intended to be a comprehensive commissioning guide.