#LDNprev conference

“Inspiring, interesting and informative”, the three words most used to describe Mentor’s youth advisors #LDNprev conference to discuss helping young Londoners to be safer when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

LYIP feedback

The conference included sessions on school drug and alcohol education, the skills that parents need to discuss these issues with their children, and on community safety.  These were based on research that our youth advisors had carried out with over 1,000 young people, experts, and policy makers and have been written up into three short papers published on our website.

Recommendations

The youth advisors draft recommendations were widely endorsed by those attending the conference – all 14 recommendations received support from over 70% of those who returned their evaluation forms at the conference.

Three recommendations received the endorsement of over 90%:

  • Schools should be required to spend a certain amount of time on drug education and to cover specific topics (97%)
  • Parents should have opportunities to improve their knowledge about drugs and alcohol (97%)
  • Ways to increase and improve communication between young people and the police should be identified and put into practice (92%)

School drug and alcohol education:

A survey on the state of drug and alcohol education in London found that just over a fifth (22%) of young people said they had not received any drug education at secondary school. And of those who said they had some drug education, a third (34%) said it took place once a year or less.

The youth advisors told us that even where drug education was happening it wasn’t always appropriate.  One told us:

“I am 16 years of age: colouring pictures of smiley face ecstasy tablets will not make me less inclined to take it.”

The youth advisors make six recommendations to improve the quality of drug and alcohol education in schools:

  • Drug/PSHE Education should be a standard part of teacher training
  • Schools should be required to spend a certain amount of time on drug education and to cover specific topics
  • Schools should engage young people by using interactive teaching techniques
  • Drug education lessons should feel like an ongoing learning process not one-off information sessions
  • If people are discussing  their own experiences this must be appropriate to the audience of young people
  • Confidential student evaluations of lessons would help improve drug education

Download the full findings here.

Parenting and Prevention

Focus groups with over 70 young Londoners found that there is a strong belief that parents have a crucial role in educating their children about drugs and alcohol. Basic knowledge, together with clear messages about decision-making, were considered important.

“Their children have the right to know that their parents are looking out for them. The fact that they do say something about it sort of shows that they do take responsibility.”

They were clear that starting the conversation early was important with one saying “by the time they do decide that they’re going to talk about it, there’s been a lot of outside influences.”

The youth advisors make five recommendations they hope will give parents the confidence to protect their children:

  • Parents must play a part in educating their children about drugs and alcohol
  • Parents should have opportunities to improve their knowledge about drugs and alcohol
  • Parents should aim for  conversations about drugs to be recurrent, relaxed and open
  • Conversations about drugs and alcohol should begin before children become teenagers
  • Parents should be authoritative but not authoritarian.

Download the full findings here.

Community Safety

Our youth advisors carried out focus groups with more than 40 young people aged between 13 and 18.

The messages they got were that the presence of drugs and alcohol on the streets make young people feel vulnerable, and that it remains relatively easy for young people to access drugs and especially alcohol.  One young person said:

You’re only ever one person away from getting weed.

They were told that young Londoners believe the police have a role to play in making them feel safe and reducing availability of drugs and alcohol; but that they feel that there is a tension between the police and young people, which needs to be worked on.

Hearing these views lead the youth advisors to draft the following recommendations:

  • Police and trading standards should liaise more closely to enforce ID policies around alcohol sales
  • There should be a more visible police presence in areas and at times where there is a high number of drinkers, drug takers and drug dealers
  • Ways to increase and improve  communication between young people and the police should be identified and put into practice

Download the full findings here.

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