Home Affairs Select Committee report on Drug Policy

The Home Affairs Select Committee have published their report into drug policy.  Given the comprehensive nature of what they cover it’s not that surprising that the media attention has been on the most controversial recommendation, that the HASC - Compelling Casegovernment should constitute a Royal Commission to consider whether to move to a regulatory regime that is similar to the one that Portugal has in place – in other words the decriminalisation on possession.

What has not had any focus is what the committee has to say about our area of expertise; education and prevention.

Here they have been just as radical and I think we can say that our evidence to the committee – both written and verbal – have been influential in the committee’s thinking.

It is surprising that apparently cost-effective programmes to dissuade young people from using drugs — Life Skills Training, Unplugged or Preventure—are not more widely used in schools. While we do not wish to endorse these particular programmes over others which might be equally good but were not drawn to our attention, we believe that there is a compelling case for the use of behaviour-based interventions in schools which are proven to reduce the chances of young people taking drugs.

The report notes:

The Department for Education told us that the National Curriculum requires infant school children to be taught about drugs as medicines whilst junior school pupils are taught about the impact of alcohol, tobacco and drugs on the human body and how they can effect health as well as what drugs are legal and illegal.

Strangely the DfE don’t seem to have mentioned that all mention of drugs have been removed from the draft of the new primary curriculum that the government want to introduce.

It goes on to quote Mentor extensively, pointing out that much of what is taught hasn’t proven effective, and picking up on the need for prevention science to play a greater role in the drug strategy and the report specifically mentions four evidence based programmes; the Good Behaviour Game, Life Skills Training, Unplugged and Preventure – all of whom Mentor discussed in our evidence to the Committee.

The Committee say:

When we asked the Department for Education how often either of these programmes [the Good Behaviour Game and Preventure] along with two others—Life Skills Training and Unplugged—were used in schools, we were told that they “do not monitor the programmes or resources that schools use to support their teaching.” We contacted a number of local authorities and asked them to survey the secondary schools in their area, asking them whether they used Life Skills Training, Unplugged or Preventure. None of those that replied used any of the programmes.

HASC - Cost EffectiveThe report goes on to quote our evidence about the relatively small cost of delivering these sorts of programmes against the much larger overall cost of education and the huge costs associated with lifetime problematic drug use.

The Committee say:

It is surprising that apparently cost-effective programmes to dissuade young people from using drugs — Life Skills Training, Unplugged or Preventure—are not more widely used in schools. While we do not wish to endorse these particular programmes over others which might be equally good but were not drawn to our attention, we believe that there is a compelling case for the use of behaviour-based interventions in schools which are proven to reduce the chances of young people taking drugs.

The report notes evidence that we and Crime Reduction Initiative gave about disinvestment in drug services despite increasing evidence that early interventions can be a very cost-effective way of reducing problematic drug use. Having been convinced of the case for prevention the Committee conclude with two clear recommendations:

  • the next version of the Drugs Strategy contain a clear commitment to an effective drugs education and prevention programme, including behaviour-based interventions.
  • Public Health England commit centralised funding for preventative interventions when pilots are proven to be effective.

Both of these recommendations are very welcome and if accepted by the government could lead to significant change in the way that young people in England are supported and protected from the harms associated with drug misuse.

I don’t think we could have asked for a clearer endorsement of our position and the evidence we supplied the Committee was clearly influential in their thinking about this section of the report.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s