Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Schools to support children in care

24dash.com report on the White Paper published last week. The story says that:

Among proposals likely to feature in today’s White Paper are: a bursary for university education; salaries for foster parents; the right for children to remain in care after 16; and measures to stop them being repeatedly moved between foster homes.

They could face regular drug screening in routine health checks, to help them avoid falling into addiction and intensive whole-family therapy sessions could be used in a last-ditch effort to prevent children being taken into care in the first place.

Mr Johnson has dubbed it “inexcusable and shameful” that the care system all too often reinforces the disadvantage suffered by children taken from their parents because of neglect or abuse.

You can download Care Matters: Time for Change here.  You can look back at how the proposals about screening were reported when they were made in the Green Paper.

Filed under: children in care

Schools to help children in care

The BBC carry a story about plans to improve services for children in care. Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Education, is quoted saying:

“More [children from care are] likely to end up in prison, more likely to become homeless, more likely to be a young offender. How can we can change it is by putting it at the top of our priorities and making sure we are working together.

“The problem has been from our wide consultation, is that they are allowed to slip into care too easily, moved around too much and then pushed out too soon.

“If there is one word which can sum up what these children need in their lives, that is stability.”

At the moment, there are about 61,000 children in care in England, 69% of whom are fostered.

Members of the Drug Education Forum have published a number of resources aimed at improving services for children in care.  These include NCB’s Talking about Alcohol and Other Drugs and Mentor UK’s Mind the Gap resources.

BBC NEWS | Education | Schools to help children in care

Filed under: children in care

The Who Cares? Trust: Publications

The Who Cares? Trust have updated their booklet about drugs. It’s called Who Cares about drugs and is a full colour, accessible booklet targeted at 12 – 18 year old young people living in public care.

They say:

It has information about all different types of drugs, including alcohol and tobacco – what they are, how they may affect those who take them. It explores reasons behind why people may take them, and offers help if a young person may be concerned if someone close to them is taking illegal substances. Details regarding the law relating to substance misuse are also given.”

Copies can be ordered here, and I’m sure it’ll make a great companion piece to the NCB/Drug Education Forum book Talking about Alcohol and Other Drugs, which is aimed at those running children’s services.

Filed under: children in care

More on Care Matters

The Guardian take a look at the Care Matters paper and point out:

Young people in care could also face regular screening for drug abuse as part of routine health checks designed to help them avoid falling into addiction.

As we’ve seen when the Daily Mail picked up on the story these proposals don’t seem that different to what the NCB book Talking about Alcohol and Other Drugs says should already be happening:

From October 2005 local authorities should include information related to substance misuse among looked after children and young people in their outcome indicator returns to the Department for Education and Skills.

The Guardian don’t, however, suggest that screening might include mandatory drug testing.

Filed under: children in care

Drug tests for care children from age 10

Care Matters Green Paper
The Daily Mail takes a look at the Care Matters Green Paper and suggests:

Children in care will be forced to undergo drug tests from the age of ten under radical plans unveiled by the Government yesterday.

All 61,000 youngsters currently in the care system would be given compulsory mouth swabs to test for cannabis, Ecstasy and cocaine every year until the age of 16.

The hardline measure is an attempt to reverse the growing trend of children sliding into a life of drug abuse, crime and homelessness once they leave care.

The Green Paper itself says the following about drugs:

Children also need help to avoid the risk of damaging behaviour, which can result from their experiences before or after entering care. Children in care tend to start using drugs at an earlier age, at higher levels and more regularly than their peers who are not in care. While only a relatively small minority of children in care offend (around 9%), it remains the case that those in care are around three times more likely than other children to be cautioned or convicted of an offence while in care.

For care to be a positive experience for children, they need the right help in all of these aspects of their lives. That help must be provided in a way which is responsive to their needs and easy to access. This requires professionals to be informed and sensitive about issues relating to race and ethnicity, sexuality, religion and disability. Children in care can enjoy a well-rounded childhood only if every member of the children’s trust is prepared to work with social workers to put these children first

The paper goes on to say:

We know that children in care are at greater risk than other children of becoming involved in substance misuse. Early identification of substance misuse and appropriate interventions are therefore essential to prevent problems escalating. We propose to:

  • Introduce screening for substance misuse as a routine part of regular health assessments, so that young people can receive appropriate support and interventions.

The identification and assessment of substance misuse must take place within the context of the assessment of the young person’s overall needs and not as a stand alone activity. The range of interventions made available to the young person should meet this holistic assessment of need. We want to improve the ability of foster carers to recognise and respond to signs of substance misuse and propose to:

  • include training on identifying and responding to substance misuse in the integrated training framework proposed in chapter 4.

Where substance misuse is identified as being a concern but not the major focus, a range of interventions can be arranged by the lead professional as part of the care plan. These include drug education/harm reduction information, one-to-one support and therapeutic counselling. Targeted support may also be required for a range of problems which may be exacerbating the young person’s substance misuse, such as family contact, placement stability, school attendance or emotional and mental health problems.

Some young people with more serious substance misuse problems will need more specialist services. Where substance misuse is identified, requiring an intervention from a specialist worker focussing on a substance misuse based care plan, young people should be provided with substance misuse treatment interventions.

Whether the screening process will be the equivalent of mandatory drug testing remains to be seen, but it doesn’t seem likely.

For those focussing on drug education for children in care may find the document that the Drug Education Forum contributed to Talking About Alcohol and Other Drugs of some help. It has this to say about the sort of information that is currently required:

From October 2005 local authorities should include information related to substance misuse among looked after children and young people in their outcome indicator returns to the Department for Education and Skills. This information is likely to be collected mainly from annual health assessments for looked after children and subsequent health plans. The information to be included on the outcome return is:

  1. The number of all children looked after for at least 12 months who were identified as having a substance misuse problem during the year ending 30 September.
  2. The number of these children who received an intervention for their substance misuse problem during the year.
  3. The number of these children who were offered an intervention but who refused it.

Of course this could now change as a result of the Green Paper, but until then this screening tool may be a useful guide to obtaining the information that will be required. The tool says:

Although many young people will try drugs at some time, most do not progress beyond experimentation. However, research indicates that many factors can increase the risk of a young person moving from ‘drug use’ to ‘drug misuse’, whilst some protective factors can reduce these risks. Unless you are a specialist drug worker it can be difficult to distinguish between use and misuse, and to accurately assess these risk factors. This tool should help.

Filed under: children in care, drug education

About this blog

This blog tries to pick up relevant media and research stories about drug education. It mainly focuses on information in England as this is the geographical remit for the Drug Education Forum. We welcome comments that are on topic.

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July 2021