Drink and drug charity reports 17% referral rise

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The independent charity which delivers specialist alcohol and drug services for people aged between 11 and 18 in the Borders has reported a 17 per cent increase in referrals for one-to-one support in 2010/11 compared with the previous year.

And of the 217 cases, involving 1,304 hours of sessions, handled by face2face Borders, 185 were for alcohol.

Underage Drinking.

Underage Drinking.

This formed just part of the caseload of the charity, which had contact with and provided support and advice to a total of more than 900 young people last year.

The organisation’s data is to be considered today by the watchdog scrutiny panel of Scottish Borders Council as part of its review of what the local authority, which, along with NHS Borders, part-funds face2face, can do to improve its policy on youth, drugs and alcohol.

Councillors will be given the most recent statistics gathered by the Borders Alcohol and Drug Partnership (BADP) and hear evidence from senior professionals, including Stella Everingham, head of integrated children’s services with SBC, Michelle Ballantyne, head of service at face2face, and acting Chief Inspector Kenny Simpson, manager of Lothian and Borders Police’s Newtown-based safer communities team.

The inquiry comes after a request by Hawick Community Council, which was concerned about substance abuse. About 20 per cent of needle exchange contacts in the Borders take place at the town’s health centre.

Between 2005 and 2009, the number of needles and syringes distributed in the Borders rocketed from 6,687 to 35,102 with the number of individuals reporting heroin use up by 67 per cent.

There were nine drug-related deaths in 2010, compared with seven in 2008.

But councillors will hear that, according to a 2009 BADP needs assessment, under-age drinking is far more prevalent than drug misuse in the region, a trend borne out by the face2face referrals for one-to-one sessions.

A background report to today’s meeting states: “There has been a noticeable shift in drinking habits amongst young people over the last year, with an increasing number drinking within homes rather than in public.

“Several addresses have been identified as party houses and are actively targeted by police and community wardens, using all available powers under licensing and antisocial behaviour legislation in an attempt to deter and reduce such behaviour.

“In addition a growing trend of youngsters trying to hire village halls to host parties was identified, with the vast majority of licensed premises refusing to host such events.

“Due to a number of bad experiences at like events, guidance has been provided to village hall committees to make them aware of their legal responsibilities.”

The report adds that the first revocation of a licence holder [in Galashiels] regarding an inability to control underage drinking on the premises had sent “a very powerful message to all licensees regarding their responsibilities in this regard”.

Scrutiny will hear that, while enforcement measures are being stepped up, including the use of test purchasing in licensed premises, the expert services of face2face appear to be paying off.

Of the young people who completed an intervention with the service last year, 58 per cent had stopped using alcohol or other substances completely, while 31 per cent had reduced their use.