Mentor is pleased to see that the Home Office’s new Modern Crime Prevention Strategy encourages an evidence-based approach to alcohol and drug education, as well as the provision of good quality PSHE education, as preventive measures against crime.
The Home Office’s new strategy, launched on March 23 at the International Crime and Policing Conference, is based on targeting what the evidence suggests are the six key drivers of crime:
- effectiveness of the criminal justice system
It also makes recommendations for action that can be taken by the government, law enforcement, industry, voluntary sector and the public.
Holistic, life-course prevention
It is encouraging to see the new crime prevention strategy advocating for an evidence-based approach to preventing crime, through the reduction of the above drivers. The following sections are highlighted as being of particular interest to those working in the field of alcohol and drug prevention (emphasis ours).
In relation to drugs as a cause of crime:
“stopping people from starting drug use in the first place, or stopping use escalating, is clearly preferable to treatment in preventing crime. There is little evidence that drug education focused solely on information giving or media campaigns alone can change behaviour though, and they should only be used as part of a wider strategy. There is, however, growing evidence that good quality Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) and school-based interventions designed to improve behaviour generally (e.g. by building confidence, resilience and effective decision-making skills) can have a preventative impact on drug use.”
In relation to alcohol as a cause of crime:
“Pursue a life-course approach to preventing the onset of alcohol misuse, and its escalation, through supporting a universal approach combined with more targeted action for the most vulnerable. This includes placing a greater emphasis on building resilience and confidence among our young people, in line with the latest international evidence, to tackle the range of risks they face by empowering them to make informed and positive choices for their health and wellbeing.”
Much of the above is reflected in Mentor’s work: we provide children and young people with age-appropriate knowledge and skills, through free education resources and evidence-based prevention programmes, helping them develop the life skills they need in order to negotiate challenging situations.
One example is the Good Behaviour Game (GBG), an approach to classroom management for primary schools, which doesn’t include any mention of alcohol or drugs but focuses instead on helping children be a positive influence on one another. GBG is an early intervention model that facilitates teamwork among pupils and encourages them to create a positive, pro-social learning environment that sets them up for success in their academic and personal lives. GBG has more than 40 years of evidence from numerous trials in the United States and Europe, and is currently being tested in the UK in a trial led by Mentor and funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). See more at gbguk.org.
Our approach to preventing the misuse of alcohol and drugs is rooted in building young people’s resilience, coupled with teaching positive health values that help young people build the self-confidence to make their own decisions. Mentor is piloting Unplugged, an internationally tested programme for secondary schools that focuses on core life skills, correcting young people’s misconceptions of alcohol and drug use and effects, and helping them make healthy choices.
Our work is based on the best international scientific evidence, supporting young people to help them develop healthy, informed attitudes and behaviour to alcohol and drugs. We also aim to (re)engage young people in education, training, volunteering and work, all of which serve as protective factors against a range of risks, including substance misuse and criminal acitivity.
Mentor’s Chief Executive Michael O’Toole led a session with Andrew Brown at the March 23 conference that shared some of the latest research on alcohol and drug misuse, criminal activity and prevention. Their presentation looked at a life-course approach to protecting young people from risks and the ways risky behaviours such as substance misuse and crime are often linked. View the slides from their session below.
Our hope is that there will be a continued shift towards evidence-based prevention, not only in crime prevention but in alcohol and drug prevention more widely as part of a holistic, systemic approach to public health and wellbeing.