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:
- 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.
- The number of these children who received an intervention for their substance misuse problem during the year.
- 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