Substance misuse amongst looked after children

We know that being in care is a risk factor for substance misuse so I’ve been looking at the  DfE figures on outcomes for looked after children, which (if I’ve read them properly) suggest that:

  • 1 in 20 of those young people who got a drug treatment was a Looked After Child.

The last figures that the NTA released on youth substance misuse treatment numbers reported that 20,688 under 18s accessed specialist support in 2011/12, of whom 1,030 were Looked After Children between the ages of 10 and 18 years.

Doing some (very rough) maths I figure that there is a ratio of 1:240 10 to 18 year olds (in the general population) accessing a treatment service; in the looked after population this ratio falls to 1:29.

The DfE report that of the 1,880 assessed as needing an intervention 1030 received one, 580 refusing treatment and 270 cases where the outcome isn’t recorded.

What this data can’t tells us is:

  • Whether earlier interventions were tried
  • Why 30% refused an intervention (and the outcome for 14% is unrecorded)
  • Whether the system is good at identifying young people needing treatment

BBC News – Sex, drink and drugs: A teenager’s life in care

We know that kids in care are particularly vulnerable to all sorts of risks, including drug and alcohol misuse.  Recently Simon has started talking to the Who Care’s Trust about involving some of the young people they’re working with in the London Youth Involvement Project, and of course the kinship care work we do gives us enormous insight into the difficulties these young people can have growing up.

This has become topical today because of a report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner in England which is looking at Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups, with a special focus on children in care.  That report finds that use of drugs and alcohol occurs as part of the abuse in some, but not all instances.

However, a young woman who spoke to Newsnight last night gives a pretty dark picture of how alcohol and drugs can play a part in the lives of children in care:

When you’re younger and you’re in care, you go out and if people offer you alcohol and stuff you just go along with it really. You’re probably just gullible.

One time she took me to this guy’s house and we ended up drinking alcohol and she had some cannabis and we ended up doing that.

She was probably the only person that would stop out all night with me, so that’s why I went out with her probably.

via BBC News – Sex, drink and drugs: A teenager’s life in care.