HC Deb 12 February 1998 vol 306 cc357-8W
Mr. Peter Bottomley

To ask the Secretary of State for Health who in health and social services should provide advice and help to a child expelled from school for the use of drugs below school leaving age and to the parents concerned. [28814]

Ms Jowell

Where a young person's drug misuse is problematic, and treatment is required, the health authority is responsible for ensuring that treatment is provided, within available resources and in the light of local priorities. The Children Act 1989 provides a framework of powers and responsibilities to ensure that children receive the care and protection they need. Section 47 of the Act requires local authority social services departments to make inquiries where they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm and this may include situations where a child is misusing drugs. There may also be situations where there are concerns about a child's well-being and development as a result of drug misuse but where abuse is not the issue. Section 17 of the Children Act requires local authorities to provide support and services for children in need.

Department for Education and Employment Circular 4–95 "Drug Prevention in Schools", issued to all schools in May 1995, offers guidance on dealing with drug-related incidents. The document places particular emphasis on the development of an agreed policy to deal with drug-related incidents and the desirability of schools developing a repertoire of responses to incidents.

Our strategy on drugs makes young people a priority. Guidance sent to health authorities and directors of social services in March last year asked them to work together with their Drug Action Team on ensuring that agencies are clear about their responsibilities, and that services for drug misusers are properly planned locally. The guidance recommended that services should be structured to meet the requirements of and be sensitive to the needs of particular groups such as young people. The Department launched in November 1997 three documents aimed at helping all agencies concerned to meet the needs of young people for drug services. This included advice on which groups are at most risk of problematic drug misuse, based on the available evidence. Young people excluded from school are identified as being at particular risk of problematic drug use.

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