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23 May 2014

Drink and drugs abuse hit children

Drink and drugs abuse hit children

Recent reports have highlighted that drug and alcohol misuse are having a devastating impact on children.

At the end of April, a Press Association investigation found that children as young as four were receiving treatment for their alcohol and/or drug use. 

This was followed by a report from the NSPCC saying that there had been a sharp rise in the number of young people calling ChildLine, a free 24-hour helpline, because of concerns about parental drinking or drug use. Nearly 5,500 counselling sessions were carried out with children about this issue last year – over double that of the previous year. It averaged out at 15 counselling sessions a day.

HopeUK, which is involved in tackling this problem, believes the distress calls are likely to be the tip of the iceberg with many young people believing that nothing can be done to help, or being afraid of getting their parents into trouble or being taken away from their families.
HopeUK believes that the impact on children of parental drug and alcohol addiction is a growing need that needs to be addressed as part of churches' community involvement.

Experts agree that the way to tackle this is through education at all stages of life. Paul Tuohy, chief executive of Mentor UK, a charity which works to protect children from drug and alcohol misuse, said : "Putting 'drugs' into the science curriculum won't teach children the skills they need to resist peer pressure; and we hear from teachers desperate for advice and help to teach young people about drugs in a meaningful way.

"Drug education is not just about how drugs affect your body - it's about building confidence and resilience to deal with the risky situations you encounter as you grow up."

HopeUK's programme Voluntary Drug Educators, trains Christians to deliver interactive drug and alcohol education with children, young people, parents and youth workers.

Volunteers are trained with a 120-hour course accredited with the Open College Network.  Once trained, they work in schools, with youth groups and on the street to raise awareness of drug and alcohol issues and prevent harm. Some educators also deliver drug education in pupil referral units and youth hostels. 

HopeUK educator Elizabeth Gregory says: "The training has increased my awareness of the drug situation and equipped me to enable young people to make drug-free choices. I have been involved in sessions in schools and a youth drop-in centre in my neighbourhood, where there is a gang culture problem."

"If every church in the country recruited and supported at least one trained drug educator, there is a real possibility that an impact could be made at local level which would soon become apparent nationally", says HopeUK.

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