Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Substance misuse: English policy fails to protect young

Young People Now’s take on the ACMD report on the progress being made on Hidden Harm:

England is lagging behind the rest of the UK when it comes to protecting young people whose parents misuse drugs, according to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

The council last week reported on how local authorities and services have implemented its recommendations on dealing with the 250,000 to 350,000 young people whose parents are problem drug users. Hidden Harm – Three Years On praised Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales but said England focused on preventing these young people from becoming users at the expense of their current welfare.

I’ve gone back to the document itself to see what it says about prevention and what further work the Committee feel is necessary. They say:

the English drugs strategy focuses on children of problem drug users only in so far as they are more at risk of becoming users themselves. There is no specific reference to safeguarding and promoting children’s welfare within a child development context. This means that the work to integrate the targets on young people in the drugs strategy into the Every Child Matters: Change for Children agenda has been driven by preventing them from becoming users themselves, and so has inevitably focused on inclusion under the ‘Be Healthy’ outcome. Whilst this is a sensible approach to achieving the prevention of drug misuse targets, the ACMD does not consider it sufficient leverage to ensure a specific focus on safeguarding the wider welfare of children of problem drug users, which falls clearly within the ‘Staying Safe’ outcome.

The ACMD is aware of an increasing emphasis in England on drug-related crime as the main form of ‘harm’ which the strategy is designed to reduce. This emphasis has taken priority within the expansion of drug treatment services over the last five years, and the ACMD is concerned that this focus has resulted in a neglect of treatment services’ responsibilities towards the children of their clients in performance management terms. In the forthcoming debates around the new drugs strategy from 2008 onwards, it is critical that this narrow focus is broadened to include a specific objective to reduce harm to children affected by drug misuse in their families.

My take on what the ACMD are saying is slightly different to the piece in Young People Now, which I read as arguing that policy ought to be less focused on prevention. My interpretation of these paragraphs would be that the ACMD are calling for increased prevention work to be done with vulnerable young people and a recognition of the needs of dependent children by adult drug treatment agencies.


Filed under: ACMD, Hidden Harm

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