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Just 40 calls in a year to discarded needle ‘hotline’ – issue back on the agenda

Progress in tackling unsafely discarded drugs litter and paraphernalia in Wrexham will come under the spotlight by councillors this week.

It will be the third time that members of the Safeguarding Communities and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee will have discussed the issue, which came onto the agenda as a result of several months of work carried out by ‘Unsafely Discarded Needles Task and Finish Group’.

The group was set up in July 2016 to examine what was seen at the time as a growing problem in Wrexham. At the time one councillor said they regularly found between 30-40 discarded needles.

A weighty report examining the problem of improperly disposed drug paraphernalia, and the impact it could have on communities, was debated first by committee members in October 2016.

A second meeting in February 2017 saw councillors acknowledge that steps in the right direction were being made, however called for a more joined up approach to continue going forward.

During the meeting earlier this year five recommendations were put forward by councillors to seek further details and receive clarification. These responses, which can be found in the appendices of the report, will be discussed by members of the Safeguarding Communities and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee at Wednesday’s meeting.

Recommendations were sent to:

– Lead Member for Environment & Transport
– Head of Department Environment & Planning
– Director Mental Health & Learning Disabilities (Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board)
– Head of Department Corporate & Customer Services
– Chair of the Public Service Board’s Partnership Delivery Board 3
– Chair of Substance Misuse Area Planning Board Service Board

One response up for consideration is from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, after councillors called for a ‘dialogue with partners about the feasibility of assuming the costs of the disposal of the unsafely discarded needles once collected’.

A response from the health board states: “Following on from the recommendations of the Wrexham Scrutiny Committee, I have had reassurance that there are already procedures in place for BCUHB to receive and incinerate sharps and other contaminated waste from Wrexham Borough Council, and as such we do not foresee any difficulties in adding to these existing systems.

“The details sent from the Environment Department of Wrexham Borough Council show that the cost for BCUHB as an organisation to provide sharps boxes and incinerate the collected waste would be approximately £200/month, which BCUHB have agreed to fund.”

It was also suggested that a piloted telephone service set up for town councillors to report discarded needles was also rolled out to the public. However details in the report’s appendix show that the number hasn’t been widely used; receiving just 40 calls since being set up in October 2016 – although was only made public when we heard about it in this public meeting. March of this year saw the most calls in a month, with 10 being made to the service. This has decreased month on month, averaging between one and four.

A note under this recommendation explains that subject to Lead member approval there is a possibility of progressing the service with Dan 24/7 – a drugs and alcohol helpline in Wrexham.

The report will go before members of the Safeguarding Communities & Wellbeing Scrutiny
Committee at 4pm on Wednesday 15th November.

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