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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. John Butcher) : First, I wish to thank my hon. Friend for bringing forward this topic tonight. As I hope to demonstrate, I shall respond very clearly to his invitation to indicate the major programme to be mounted in our schools.
First, I join him in the tribute that he has paid to the Matthew project and to the Life of the World Trust. I know that he takes a great interest in these matters and I am sure that, just as the people of Norwich are well served by him, so young people who may have a problem are served by those two bodies.
The scale of the problems of alcohol and drug misuse among young people has been highlighted by work done by Mr. John Balding at Exeter university. Surveys involving over 18,000 pupils in 1987 revealed that over 74 per cent. of fifth-year boys and 65 per cent. of fifth-year girls had consumed alcohol in the past week, with over 10 per cent. of the boys consuming the equivalent of more than 10 pints of beer. The same surveys revealed that up to 12 per cent. of fifth-year boys and 14 per cent. of girls had been offered cannabis or other more harmful drugs at some time during their teens. Those are chilling figures and reinforce our determination to help young people to avoid alcohol and drug abuse.
For the past six months I have been undertaking a review of all the policy issues which must come together in the formation of a plan to be applied in our schools to deal with the problems of alcohol and drug abuse. During that period I have chaired working meetings with drugs education co- ordinators and together we have assembled a great deal of information and know-how, and the co-ordinators have responded magnificently to my invitation to play their full part in the policy formation process.
I should explain that the DECs are in post in all English local education authorities, funded through education support grants and charged with the task of co-ordinating
Column 452education programmes for schools and colleges that disseminate the best practice in methods of reducing the risk of drug abuse by the young. I have also spoken to organisations such as TACADE, Kaleidoscope, the City roads rehabilitation centre and life education centres.
During those discussions and research activities it became very clear that through education we should increase the effort devoted to reduction of the demand for drugs ; that we should create a generation of school children and young people who will turn their backs on dealers and pushers. It has also become clear that drug abuse, alcohol abuse and AIDS are related issues that can be tackled in a co-ordinated health education programme and that our future policy for school programmes should reflect this.
I said earlier that my hon. Friend's Adjournment debate was timely. It is so because I am now in a position to announce to the House the broad objectives and measures of our policy of demand reduction, which has benefited from the information-gathering stage I mentioned earlier. I can announce tonight a £7 million programme for the year 1990-91. Of this, £4 million will be used to support a new, broadened remit for drugs education co-ordinators, who will now be responsible for the provision of information and advice to schools on alcoholism and AIDS, in addition to their existing work on drugs. Funding for the co-ordinators--now to be called health education co-ordinators--has been guaranteed for at least three years in recognition of the fact that those programmes cannot be short-term programmes but will require a long and intensive effort by local education authorities and schools.
A further £3 million will be provided under the local education authority training grants scheme to fund in-service training of teachers covering the same key areas of health education. I can also announce tonight a 10-point plan. I will deal with the salient points.
The first is the provision of information for parents, to be distributed via the schools, subject to the approval of school governors. The precise messages for parents will have to be agreed with local conditions in mind and will involve the co-operation of a variety of organisations, whose views will be sought.
The second point is to examine the effectiveness of existing health education and if necessary apply the lessons learned and modify the messages to young people.
The third is to integrate health education messages into the national curriculum in ways which are compatible with the foundation subjects and with existing programmes of personal and social education.
The fourth is the gathering together of examples of best international practice, with particular reference to the reasons for success or failure in other countries.
The fifth is the greater involvement of the private sector in the sponsorship of programmes on drugs and alcohol. An excellent example of this approach came from the Scotch Whisky Association, which supported a research project and an excellent conference on alcohol and young people.
The sixth is wider incorporation of health education issues in initial teacher training courses.
The seventh is development of further curriculum materials for teachers to build on the excellent work of TACADE, for example, with its drug-wise teaching pack.
Column 453The eighth is to secure better information on the health-related behaviour of young people. The ninth is to define in conjunction with the Department of Health specific and clear messages for different categories of young people--general messages for all young people at school, messages to those who are experimenting, messages to those who are indulging in regular or casual use, and messages to users with an addiction problem.
I am advised that concentrating on a particular substance or giving a high profile to a particular drug can be counter-productive. The best approach is for young people to be taught about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and a healthy body. They need to be given the skills to know how to resist pressures to misuse drugs and alcohol for health, lifestyle and social reasons. In a nutshell, our message to young people must be : "Stay healthy. Stay in control." Therefore, our tenth initiative is to give wider publicity to the stay healthy, stay in control message.
Those who follow this sad and unhappy issue will know that the drug pusher may not be obviously identifiable as a furtive, evil-looking character on a street corner. To those who may be susceptible, the pusher may currently be a friend. He may pose as a friend at a time when the potential victim has drunk too much and is offered a substance. We must ensure that people who find themselves in such situations recognise that moment and say no. If they do not say no, they may be on the first rung of the ladder to oblivion.
My hon. Friend is right to say that drink, drugs and AIDS are related. Someone who has drunk too much at a party may say yes to the substance that is offered to them. They may move on to harder drugs. They may eventually inject, share needles, and then face an increasing risk of contracting the virus that leads to AIDS. I have said very little about alcohol, yet it is a wider problem than drugs. It affects young and old. Dr. Anthony Thorley estimates that 25 per cent. of acute hospital beds
Column 454for males are occupied by patients suffering from alcohol-related problems. A small but still too large proportion of young people seem to think that they can have a good time only through getting drunk. That phenomenon in itself raises a large number of questions. They merit a debate in their own right, and I shall not discuss them this evening. Nevertheless, we know that providing information on the effects of alcohol on health may not be enough. We must point out the bad effect of alcohol abuse on personal relationships, loss of respect from friends, and loss of appeal to the opposite sex. In other words, those messages are all relevant to the social preoccupations and self-esteem of teenagers and of young people. I am particularly impressed by the campaign along those lines pursued through local radio commercials and advertisements in young people's magazines in New South Wales. The messages are strong and clear. Teenage boys, for example, are told :
"If you don't want to look like a jerk, don't get drunk." That is the clear message, in the clear, Australian style. The campaign's messages imply also that a boy is likely to lose a girl friend if he insults her or talks gibberish while under the influence of drink. It is those very personal, very apt and very relevant messages that must supplement the informative process in health education programmes.
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for raising tonight's topic. I hope that the House agrees that the programme I announced, which will cost £7 million, is a significant initiative. We shall monitor and manage that 10-point plan. I assure my hon. Friend that on such a serious issue, the initiative's management plan will be checked and assessed at regular intervals to see whether it hits its targets. It is on-going and will continue for three years. From that point on, if we find that we are winning, we may change the programme. I hope that that will be the case because, for the sake of our nation's children, we have to win.
Question put and agreed to .
Adjourned accordingly at twenty-seven minutes to Ten o'clock .
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