Submitted by the Drug Education Forum
The Drug Education Forum (DEF) welcomes the
increased funding of £152 million over three years for education
and prevention activities and treatment for children and young
people. It is very important that the money is invested wisely
and results in improvements at local level. Realistic targets
need to be developed and agreed for measuring effectiveness of
activities and success in achieving targets in the National Drug
This paper is divided into two areas: (1) Existing
drug policy (2) Drugs and the law. It has been produced specifically
for the Home Affairs Committee Inquiry.
1. IS EXISTING
There are four main areas which the Forum has
identified for consideration with regard to existing drug policy.
a. Children and young people's participation
DEF is delighted that government have expressed
a commitment to children and young people's participation through
the National Healthy School Standard, in the development of the
Children's National Service Framework and in the DfES White Paper
Schools Achieving Success. However, DEF is disappointed that no
plans have been announced to involve children and young people
in the review of the National Drugs Strategy.
The children and young people that DEF consulted
said that they felt valued and listened to as a result of the
opportunities to participate. Children and young people are more
likely to engage in drug education activities and develop a sense
of ownership if they feel there is a genuine interest and commitment
to listening to their views and ensuring policy and practice reflects
their needs. It will also help to ensure that policy is developed
which children and young people welcome.
Funding from government to enable
national and local organisations and programmes to fulfil their
commitment to involving all children and young people effectively
in policy and practice development. Also, to support ongoing and
sustainable consultation with children and young people.
b. Public health agenda
The public health agenda should be a shared
responsibility across government departments, not just Department
of Health (DH). A clear, strong and effective leadership of the
public health and joint decision making processes across government
DEF is concerned that an emphasis on drugs being
a criminal justice issue may result in a failure to see it as
a public health issue. Subsequently drug education could become
a low priority and children and young people will not receive
their entitlement to drug education. Also, vulnerable groups will
be at greater risk because of lack of access to effective education
A deeper philosophy and understanding of children's
personal social development should be reflected in drug policy.
Our work with children and young people indicates that they do
not think about drugs in a vacuum but relate it to other issues
and concerns in their lives. It is important that drug policy
reflects this and that drugs is integrated within national children
and young people's strategies and initiatives. DEF welcomes the
announcement of a Children's National Service Framework and hope
that drug education will be an integral part of it, within the
context of children's health, learning and development.
Existing planning mechanisms such as Drug Action
Teams (DATs)/National Healthy School Standard (NHSS) can work
together to deliver targets and ensure that drug targets are integrated
throughout local plans and policies. The NHSS could continue to
ensure that effective Local Authority and Health Authority partnerships
are developed. DATs have a crucial role in ensuring that local
funds are used wisely to develop education activities and services
for children and young people.
Monitoring the impact of the Home
Office lead on national drug policy.
Develop a shared understanding and
commitment across government to their contributions to public
Identify and integrate drug targets
in national initiatives that have a focus on children and young
people at government level.
To support local policy makers, coordinators
and practitioners to engage actively with Local Strategic Partnerships,
helping them understand and develop links across the range of
initiatives and plans being delivered locally and to contribute
to local partnership accreditation for example through the Neighbourhood
c. Unrealistic outcomes for drug education
Historically government has prioritised health
outcomes for drug education without recognising the complexities
this presents. For example, targets to "reduce the proportion
of people under 25 reporting the use of Class "A" drugs
by 25 per cent". The targets in the national drugs strategy
for measuring success in relation to drug education are treatment
outcomes, not education ones.
Ancedotal evidence gathered from our discussions
with teachers and other practitioners indicates that the lack
of consensus about the purpose of drug education is confusing
and overburdening for them and consequently makes it difficult
for them to develop effective mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating
Drug education (within the context of children
and young people's health, learning and development) holds important
education value. Practitioners need support to enable them to
effectively measure what children and young people learn:
Has their knowledge and understanding increased?
Including, do they know where they can go for help? What skills
have they developed? Have they developed an understanding of their
own and others attitudes and how these impact on the decisions
they make? Have their levels of confidence and esteem improved?
This learning can be measured and it is a good
indicator of whether children and young people feel prepared for
future situations that may arise and contributes to the development
of an evidence base on effective drug education.
It is important that government consult and
involve key stakeholders, policy makers, local coordinators and
practitioners so that the planned cross-departmental longitudinal
study into the effectiveness of drug education (Blueprint) is
of use at a local level.
National review of the aims of drug
To disseminate outcomes nationally
and secure local understanding and support of key partners.
d. Range of substances covered
The Drugs Strategy has a focus on reducing the
use of Class "A" drugs, however other legal drugs such
as alcohol, volatile substances and solvents also need to be addressed.
This focus reinforces the media's sensationalism of Class "A"
drug use and continues the stigmatisation of young people and
adults that use Class "A" drugs as "junkies".
The focus on Class "A" drugs fails to acknowledge the
links between legal and illegal drug use and means that children
and young people are less likely to get information on the drugs
that they hear about or come into contact with the most such as
alcohol, volatile substances and solvents.
Review on how the strategy will make
links with other legal drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, volatile
substances and solvents, steroids and medicines, including the
misuse of prescribed medication.
2. DRUGS AND
a. Review of the misuse of drugs act 1971
The publication of the Police Foundation report
on the Independent Inquiry into the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and
the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Physicians report Drugs,
Dilemmas and Choices offered a valuable opportunity for discussing
sensibly and openly the implications of the Misuse of Drugs Act
on children and young people's lives.
For example those young people who receive a
criminal record for possession of drugs may as a result experience
difficulty in pursuing their education and career goals. The law
also presents obstacles for practitioners in meeting the needs
of children and young people. For example, teachers who are entering
the profession now are perhaps more likely to have taken illegal
drugs. Some teachers tell us that they feel uncomfortable in discussing
drugs with pupils because they have engaged in illegal drug use.
Subsequently the quality of drug education is effected and pupils
feel less able to approach them with their question or concerns.
b. Cannabis legalisation/decriminalisation
Statistical data on young people's drug use
indicates that cannabis is their third major drug of choice (after
tobacco and alcohol). A MORI poll with young people carried out
as part of the Independent Inquiry into the Misuse of Drugs Act
indicates that they do not regard the law as a major deterrent
to their drug use. We must be committed to seeking the best situation
for our children and young people and engage with them in the
debate. Also, consider and discuss the implications for adults
who care for and work with children and young people if cannabis
A national debate on the drug laws,
including the issues around cannabis legalisation/decriminalisation,
informed by a review of the evidence and consultations with children
and young people.
The Drug Education Forum (DEF), based at
the National Children's Bureau (NCB), is working for the provision
of effective drug education for all children and young people.
The Forum brings together a range of national organisations from
health, education, police and voluntary sector that deliver or
support the delivery of drug education. Through the Forum, members
from 32 national organisations work together to develop policy
and practice in drug education. The Forum is a national authority
on drug education and unique in that it is the only organisation
that brings together a broad range of organisations to develop
and maintain consensus about the nature and scope of drug education.