DrugScope, the PSHE Association and Mentor have come together to welcome the publication of the briefing paper, Prevention of drug and alcohol dependence, by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) Recovery Committee.
As the report makes clear, these are vital issues for government, schools and other providers of drug and alcohol prevention and education to get right. It is an important reminder that we can’t afford an ‘anything goes’ attitude as some approaches have been shown to be ineffective and a few are positively detrimental to young people’s lives. We need statutory PSHE education to ensure that all lessons on the these issues are taught by trained practitioners in line with best practice guidelines, using evidence-based approaches.
This is an issue which we cannot afford to ignore. Just this week, we read the harrowing reports of how drug and alcohol were used as a gateway to sexually exploit children in Oxfordshire; in response, the council has invested in education programmes on the issue in schools. The lethal cocktail of mobile phone apps, house parties, the use of alcohol and drugs in grooming young girls is not unique to one part of the country. We need to act to keep children safe.
There are a number of well-developed programmes that policy makers, commissioners and schools could trust to be an effective part of their prevention strategies, and we are proud that the advice offered to schools and others by the Mentor-ADEPIS project has been recognised by the ACMD as high quality.
However, the government, and in particular the Department for Education, have an obligation to return to the advice they provide schools and others delivering drug and alcohol education and prevention.
In 2010, the Department for Education excluded advice on teaching drug education, a retrograde step which our organisations challenged at the time. Five years on, it is time to revisit that decision. Substance misuse has moved on a great deal in the last five years, not least in relation to the growing use of new psychoactive substances, but standards of high quality practice – avoiding shock tactics, for example – remain. We are happy to work with Government to update and refresh the standards, and also acknowledge the interest shown by other Departments. Children and young people should not be exposed to anything but high-quality, evidence based programmes delivered by trained practitioners.
DrugScope has prepared a short summary of the ACMD briefing which can be accessed here.