Drug Abuse

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 4th February 2002.

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Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones Labour, Warrington North 2:30 pm, 4th February 2002

What support he is giving to parents whose children are addicted to drugs.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Support for the parents, carers and families of young people with drug problems is a crucial part of the national drug strategy. Information about the dangers of drugs and where to get help is routinely distributed to schools, GPs' surgeries and police stations. On 27 December 2001, we launched a campaign to raise awareness of the risks of drugs and to encourage parents and carers to use the national drugs helpline on 0800 776600 for reliable and credible information on the harm that drugs cause and the support that is available. Only three weeks into the campaign, the helpline has seen a significant increase in calls of over 20 per cent.

Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones Labour, Warrington North

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he accept that despite the progress that has been made, many parents find that their children are taking drugs? Those parents find it difficult to access support and treatment for their children. Even if they get them into treatment, they are put back into their communities to mix with those who got them on to drugs in the first place, without any further support being available.

I urge my hon. Friend to examine closely representations made by the Footsteps project, which serves my constituency and that of my hon. Friend Mr. Watts, which set out the horror stories of some parents. Will he find time in his schedule to talk to parents and groups who represent children at risk, to learn what is happening at the sharp end from the users of services, rather than from those who set up the services?

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend is right; parents have severe problems dealing with those issues, and many lack the confidence to engage with their children about drugs. Studies show that there is a significant reduction in the taking of dangerous drugs by children of parents who have had the confidence to have such conversations. I am aware of the work of Footsteps in Warrington, which is funded by the communities against drugs fund. I do not know whether my hon. Friend is aware, but Warrington is due to get another three posts, funded from a variety of sources, to provide information and support to parents and carers of young people in the near future. I should be happy to receive further information from her about the problems in the area, but I wish to make her aware of that additional funding coming on stream in Warrington.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron Conservative, Witney

Does the Minister agree that former addicts are often the best people to explain the dangers of drug abuse to children? He will not be aware of it, but I was in Wood Green school in my constituency this morning, sitting at the back of the class while Energy and Vision, a group of former addicts, explained the dangers of drug abuse; they were explaining, rather than preaching. Does the Minister agree that that is the right message and the right way to communicate it? What steps will he take to encourage such voluntary bodies?

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman's premise is right; explaining is far more effective than preaching. We will try to engage any available talent to do that. People who have managed to rehabilitate themselves after serious drug offending and drug problems are often prepared to get involved in such campaigns and offer their time. We must try to make sure that we have in place facilities to enable people to make use of that volunteering.

Photo of Mr Bill Tynan Mr Bill Tynan Labour, Hamilton South

Does my hon. Friend accept that many voluntary organisations that are providing a wonderful counselling service for parents find themselves strapped for cash, with little money to deliver the service required? Will he ensure that adequate financial support is given to voluntary organisations that provide a worthwhile service?

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend is right; there is a problem, but there have been significant increases in the amount of money available. It takes time for services to come on stream. The Department of Health allocated an extra £5 million in 2001–02, and another £11 million in the next financial year, to provide treatment for young people with serious drug problems and support for their parents. Money is therefore becoming available but, as ever, there is much more that we could do.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

Despite what the Minister said about funding, how does he explain the fact that I have a letter from the deputy chief constable of Surrey, who says that in his role in the Surrey drug action team, he found that all the promises of new money made by the Government in 2000 have subsequently been undermined? First, a totally unexpected top-slicing meant that the team immediately had to cut £80,000 from the programmes that it funded. Then, last October, the team was told that year 2 and year 3 funding was under threat. It had been promised a 70 per cent. uplift, but was told that it was likely to be no more than 20 per cent. Senior police officers trying to lead the fight against drugs for the benefit of our children are finding that there is a huge difference between the Government's rhetoric and the reality on the ground, which is cut, cut, cut.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Sadly, in the short time in which I have been dealing with the hon. Gentleman, I have learned not to take at face value anything he says. I shall happily check what allegations have been made by his local police officer, and what allegations the hon. Gentleman has added to them, and I shall come back to him with a detailed reply. Over time, I have learned to do that.