Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

A new documentary shows how the effects of addiction can lay whole families to waste

The Observer has a long piece looking at the Channel 4 programme aired last night, Mum Loves Drugs, Not Me… :

I was bathing Lacey one night and she said, “Nanny, could Mummy die if she carries on taking drugs and drinking?” And I said, “Yes, she could, but we’re going to work very hard to get her better.” You have to reassure them, but not lie to them. Anyway, she must have been mulling it over because a few weeks later she asked me about it again. “You know if Mummy dies,” she said, “and you’re getting older and you die, who will take us?”‘ Jan Patterson, 61, pauses for a moment and shakes her head. ‘A lot of these children are really worried and anxious you know… Traumatised, actually.’

The programme is currently available to watch online.

The Grandparents Project that Mentor UK, Adfam and Grandparent Plus carried out covered similar territory, the Mind the Gap resources from that project are available from here.

Mentor UK are now managing a three year project working across 7 European countries to support kinship carers and those they care for because of parental drug or alcohol problems, and to produce training materials to professionals.

Adfam has a project in London looking at existing services and developing new ways of supporting grandparents who are bringing up their grandchildren because their birth parents are drug users.

Grandparents Plus have a network for grandparents raising grandchildren.

Filed under: grandparents, Hidden Harm

Bristol reviews help for addict parents

Children & Young People Now report on a piece of work going on in Bristol:

A local authority is to carry out a review of how to improve support for children of drug addicts.

The review, to be carried out by the Safer Bristol partnership, will
consider how best to meet the needs of drug-users and their children in
light of the national drugs strategy. A working group involving
children’s services, drug agencies and service users has been set up. A
full report will be published in December.

Filed under: Hidden Harm

Call for pregnancy drug abuse stats

Children Now:

Figures need to be collected on children affected by their mother’s drug and alcohol abuse during pregnancy, the chair of an adoption charity’s health advisory group has urged.

Dr Mary Mather told a Parents for Children conference last week that a mother’s substance abuse could lead to medical problems for children later in life.

Filed under: Hidden Harm

“Working across children’s and adults services: creating seamless services in the post ECM world”

Beverley Hughes talks to the LGA about joining up children’s and adult services:

The extent to which effective joint working actually happens is a crucial determinant of the wellbeing of some of our most vulnerable children, young people and their families. It has a significant impact on how effectively children are safeguarded from the risk of harm. And it also has the capacity to help families thrive.

That is why it matters so much that we get it right.

It matters most for families who need the most help. It matters for example for families facing multiple and entrenched problems – and Hilary Armstrong will very shortly be publishing a report showing how much more could be done to promote better joint working for families who are most at risk in which early intervention with both children and adults can make the most difference.

DfES Speeches : view online

Filed under: Hidden Harm

Adult Drug Problems, Children’s Needs

NCB’s new toolkit, Adult Drug Problems, Children’s Needs: Assessing the Impact of Parental Drug Use, was developed with funding from the Department of Health, and aims to help social workers and other practitioners work together to protect children.

Children Now

Filed under: Hidden Harm

Suffer not …the little children

The Voice has a piece about children’s social care and how BME communities are served.  It includes the following quote from Cathy Ashley, chief executive of the Family Rights Group, which seems pertinent to thinking about Hidden Harm and the agenda for schools and other services that may be noticing problems within families:

“Many families who contact us are crying out for help when problems first start to emerge. However, too often their requests are ignored, mainly because social services are overstretched and the threshold is so high for specialist support services to address, for example, a child’s behaviour problems or a parent’s drug misuse. Black and minority ethnic children and families are particular vulnerable to having their needs ignored because of the lack of appropriate and welcoming services.”

You may also want to look back at the Getting It Getting It Right report which pointed to the number of Black pupils that were excluded on an annual basis.

Filed under: Hidden Harm

Feed family, do homework

The Guardian looks at the role’s that young carers take – sometimes as a result of parental drug or alcohol problems – and the way one school has responded:

Their [young carers] valuable contribution is also highlighted in assemblies and PSHE lessons. When the initiative started, there were just four pupils in the school known to be young carers. Since then, a further 40 have come forward – an astonishing number in a school with just over 800 pupils, and further evidence that, as the Barnardo’s survey suggests, there are a host of young carers going unnoticed in schools all over the country.

But why do they stay silent about their situation? According to charities supporting them, many fear intervention from social services, and that they may be taken into care if the family is seen to be struggling. There may also be a stigma attached to the condition, especially for the estimated million or so children living with a parent who has alcohol or substance abuse problems.

Filed under: Hidden Harm, PSHE

‘Things are good now’

The Guardian has a piece about Addaction which touches on the issues thrown up by Hidden Harm:

Rachel’s life imploded eight years ago when she was introduced to heroin as a way of dealing with some of the particularly nasty problems life was throwing at her. “Everything seemed to go away when I used it,” she says. Things descended into chaos.

Her daughter Anna was then two. She never saw Rachel inject herself, but was certainly familiar with the kit a heroin user needs. Increasingly, drugs eroded Rachel’s will to mother her child. “Getting heroin became the be-all and end-all of my life. If I had no heroin, I wouldn’t get up to take Anna to school. I was doing nothing with her. She would just have to look after herself till I got the next fix.”

The report goes on to look at the wider picture:

The project [Addaction’s Breaking the Cycle] is a response to 11 recommendations made by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in its 2003 report Hidden Harm, issued after the council held an inquiry into the situation of British children living with parents or guardians whose drug use is badly affecting the family. The council found that only 5% of children at risk from their parents’ drug habit came to the attention of care workers – yet children living in these conditions often sustain profound life-long damage.

Addaction adds its own list of chilling facts: a child is more likely to use drugs if the parents are users; Britain has more drug users aged 15 and 16 than any other European country; 6% of Britain’s 11-year-olds say they have used drugs.

Filed under: ACMD, Hidden Harm, illegal drugs

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

Hidden Harm 3 Years On

The ACMD have produced a report looking at what has changed as a result of their report Hidden Harm.

Community Care covers the subject saying:

The Advisory Council said today that its Hidden Harm report in 2003 had led to greater acknowledgement of the problems faced by children of parents who abuse drugs and alcohol and increased action by agencies, leading to improvements in their lives.

But in a review of Hidden Harm, it said good practice was not being implemented consistently across the UK and there was a significant problem securing long-term funding to support children.

Meanwhile in a piece for the Druglink Blog Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of Drugscope and ACMD member, points out the contrasts in the way that different administrations across the UK have responded to the report:

progress is far from uniform across the UK, with gaps in the implementation of the ACMD’s original recommendations. Most strikingly the report highlights time and again insufficient progress in England compared with other countries in the UK and particularly compared with Scotland.

I note that the Hidden Harm document doesn’t mention the guidance being developed by NICE on Interventions to reduce substance misuse among vulnerable and disadvantaged young people. Similarly the NICE draft guidance doesn’t acknowledge the Hidden Harm document.

Filed under: Hidden Harm, NICE

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