The Psychoactive Substances Bill continues its progress through the Lords. It would seem the Government has accepted the need to amend and improve the Bill by including a role for the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).
But there appears no plan to make any significant level of investment in public awareness or helping schools to educate students on ‘legal highs’/New Psychoactive Substances. Ministers have declined to give even a hint that anything more is needed beyond the usual TalktoFrank.
This intransigence prompted a few like-minded organisations to write to the Home Secretary (see list below). The letter said the Bill was, “an ideal opportunity for Government Departments to come together with stakeholders to invest in a public awareness campaign and ensure schools offer effective prevention and education on NPS…..We would request that the relevant Departments urgently re-assess their educational commitment to NPS and construct a plan to ensure young people have resilience, confidence and sufficient knowledge to resist taking them and suffering the consequences. “
To date, only £180,000 has been spent on NPS awareness since 2013, which is really a tiny amount. We asked the Government to look at the excellent ideas from the Government for Wales. They recommended a targeted public awareness campaign for young people and also one specifically for parents, an evaluation of current education programmes, investment more generally on drugs education for schools and NPS training for frontline staff. There has also been innovative education programmes created in Scotland by ‘Choices for Life’.
We think that legal highs education cannot be left to chance. When we visit schools and survey students, we find poor levels of understanding of the risks. Last month, five people were hospitalised at a festival after drinking, rather than sniffing, ‘poppers’ which is a toxic chemical. There are constant examples to be found of preventable accidents with these legal substances, which would not have happened, had the people involved understood the scale of risk.
Jan King, CEO, Angelus Foundation
Michael O’Toole, CEO, Mentor
Viv Evans, CEO, Adfam
Jane Winehouse, Amy Winehouse Foundation
Christian Guy, Centre Social Justice
Emma Crawshaw, CEO, Crewe2000
Kevin Shapland, Trustees Chair, Solve It
Colin McGregor-Paterson, CEO, Oasis Partnership
Steve Hamer OBE, CEO Compass
Simon Antrobus, CEO, Addaction