CEO Blog: Back to school and looking ahead

In this blog, I reflect on Mentor's recent achievements and look ahead to the exciting year to come.

21 September 2017 | CEO Blog

We’re ‘back to school’ already and really looking forward to the work ahead of us.

Last week, I addressed the National Substance Misuse Conference in Birmingham conference centre on “Effective Substance Misuse Prevention & Education”. These are always excellent events with outstanding speakers, such as our Trustee Prof. Harry Sumnall and Paul Hayes of Collective Voice. Clearly the environment to deliver is tougher than ever but the professionalism and expertise in the drugs sector is certainly impressive.

The major landmark for us this year was the publication of our Five Year Strategic Plan setting out Mentor’s “life-course approach to prevention”. We need to keep establishing greater evidence to strengthen our programmes towards achieving the plan’s top goals. We aim to reach 1 million young people through direct and indirect evidence-based prevention. In addition we intend that 100,000 parents and carers will receive support to build their preventative impact on young people in their care.

And not least, we want to see 20,000 practitioners and professionals working with young people to improve their expertise, resources and capacity to provide evidence-based prevention.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the launch of the government’s new National Drug Strategy in July. Prevention now constitutes one of the central strategic pillars – this signals a measurable change towards evidence-based drugs education and away from ‘scare tactics’. I was also very pleased to see there are also some very helpful crossovers into other strategies including crime prevention. One thing is clear the strategy highlights the need to invest more in evidenced-based drug and alcohol prevention and education programmes.

To support this strategy, we were delighted, we were able to announce in March three years funding from Public Health England for the Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Information Service (ADEPIS) for schools and practitioners. Currently we are surveying teachers what their existing practice looks like, how they use resources for alcohol and drug education. As one of our flagship programmes we are determined to improve and develop ADEPIS further and make our resources and training services even better.

In Scotland, our kinship care work is going from strength to strength: the Families Together programme and Big Hearts partnership continue to lead the way in providing effective models of support for kinship families in Scotland. We have been working with the Scottish Government on the Kinship Care Guide and funding to develop training and deliver regional forums to share best practice in kinship support. The forthcoming update of drugs strategy represents a further opportunity to enhance our influence on prevention in Scotland.

The environment in new psychoactive substances (NPS) continues to evolve but it was gratifying to see the Crime Survey of England and Wales showing significant falls in key groups such as 16-24 year old and particularly young men. Besides our Project Aware work in Luton next month we are re-launching the website for Why Not Find Out in time for its fifth anniversary on 15 October. It will be restructured to offer broader advice about a wider range of substances and more prevention messaging. In addition, we are preparing a launch in October of our new NPS Parents Handbook ‘Talking with your Children about NPS and Club Drugs’ written with our good friends at Adfam.

The two-year trial for the Good Behaviour Game (GBG) came to an end in July and now we are preparing for dissemination of the results next year. This groundbreaking research is an evidence-based approach to classroom management that helps primary school children learn how to work together to create a positive learning environment. Pilots in other countries have shown the GBG to have dramatic positive benefits on children’s behaviour. So can’t wait to see those results.

So in spite of the tough prevailing conditions, Team Mentor is still thriving and anticipating another year of big challenges.