Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Jan King: If I had my way the government would...

This is a guest blog from Jan King, the Chief Executive of the Angelus Foundation.

We need the government to take positive steps to ensure young people are better informed of the risks to their mental and physical well-being from new psychoactive substances, the so called ‘legal-highs’.

We already have a poor commitment to drugs education in this country and the government needs to ensure that all schools cover some key messages. There has been an understandable trend to schools setting more of their own teaching agenda but this cannot be at the expense of our young people’s future health and well-being.

Compulsory PSHE (Personal Social and Health Education) would be a welcome start and much more proactive means of getting messages to young people. We need well thought out approaches delivered in a range of ways but ideally with young people centre stage saying what works for them.

The emphasis needs to be on equipping them to withstand the myriad of pressures they may face and not rather pointless enforcement messages around potential penalties.

At Angelus we have been visiting schools, universities and festivals showing films of what can happen when people experiment with untested substances with little idea of what they are taking let alone what might be a safe dose, assuming such a thing is possible. When they see the outcomes they are often angry they have not been informed by anyone before that there are new forces at play trying to take advantage of their potential vulnerabilities.

While we are committed to working with young people and their parents so that young people can take informed decisions we need the Government to be taking a much clearer stand on what schools should be doing to stem this pernicious trend.

The Government’s review into NPS goes some way in the right direction but the new Administration will need to ensure that its recommendations are pursued vigorously if we are really to keep our young people safe.

There will be no time to rest on any laurels as we know the industry that knocks out these substances will already be cooking up new ways to get around any changes in the law.

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