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Effective Interventions Unit - Working with young people: A profile of projects funded by the Partnership Drugs Initiative

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Working with young people: A profile of projects funded by the Partnership Drugs Initiative

Chapter 2: Project Profiles

This chapter summarises the outline profiles of the seventeen projects included in the first stage of the PDI research. Individual profiles are presented in appendix A.

It is evident from the project outlines that the PDI has been successful in a number of key respects. It has led to the rapid development of a wide range of projects the vast majority of which have been highly successful in contacting their target groups. The projects are geographically dispersed and spread over the three target client groups of the initiative.

In the remainder of this chapter we look at the profile of clients and referrals across the PDI projects as a whole. Whilst not all projects were able to provide specific data on the age of their clients, many of the projects were able to supply this data and on that basis we have analysed the age range of clients in contact with projects. The information here is summarised in figure 1 below:

Figure 1: Number of young people attending one of the projects categorised by age

chart

NB Age data from Dundee Link, Aberlour, Forth Valley Hope, Perth Connect & West Lothian Detached street work was not included in the histogram since it was either missing or grouped into age categories.

It can be seen that most of the young people in contact with projects were in the 14 to 17 age range. This age spread is interesting in its own right. We know from recent research that between 6 and 10 percent of children aged 10 to 12 in Scotland have started to use illegal drugs. While not all of these children will go on to develop long term problems associated with their drug use, the indications are that many of them are highly vulnerable and are certainly at risk of developing longer term problems. On that basis one would say that the needs of the very youngest children starting to use illegal drugs might still not be being met. Similarly, recent estimates that there may be between 40,000 and 60,000 children in Scotland with drug dependent parents suggests the real possibility that many of these children will be in the younger age range and, whilst some of the PDI projects (notably Aberlour) are contacting younger children within the family context, it again seems probable that in many instances the youngest children with drug dependent parents are still not having their needs met.

Figure 2 below shows the profile of referrals to PDI projects. Social work constitutes the largest referrer to the projects by a significant margin; relatively few referrals are directly made by individuals themselves. Similarly, both health and education make fewer referrals into the projects than one might have anticipated.

There are a number of implications which flow from this profile of referrals.

First, the small numbers of self-referrals means that the PDI projects tend to be attracting their clients from agencies that are, in one way or another, already in contact with the young person and his or her family. This would suggest that clients will be coming into contact with the projects at a stage when their problems are more advanced than might be ideal for an early intervention initiative. This is an issue to which we return later in the report. Indeed, to work effectively in an early intervention context would probably require projects to attract a greater proportion of self-referrals.

Secondly, it is surprising that both health and education are providing only a relatively small proportion of referrals into the PDI projects. It is not possible on the basis of these data to comment definitively on the reasons for this. There are a number of possible reasons:

  • PDI projects may have a lower profile with the health and education agencies in their areas than they would wish

  • Health and education agencies may be less attuned to the work of the PDI projects than their social work counterparts

  • health and education agencies may be less attuned to the needs of clients potentially falling within the orbit of the PDI projects than social work agencies.

The profiling of referrals suggests a potential for further unmet need. It seems likely that education and health agencies will be in contact with young people who could benefit from contact with the PDI projects in their area.

Figure 2: Number of referrals to child-focussed project by type of referral

pie chart

Figure 3 below indicates the comparative success of projects in attracting clients. There is a clear difference in the numbers of clients in contact with projects. The largest numbers of clients are in contact with those projects which are highly accessible or in which the intervention is less intensive. An example of such a project would be the West Lothian outreach project which in its first year recruited 1700 young people in the 10 to 20 age range. By contrast the Alternatives project in West Dumbartonshire - which undertakes one to one counselling with young people affected by their parents drug use or who are using illegal drugs themselves - had dealt with 32 referrals since April 2002 when its PDI funding began.

Figure 3: Number of children by project type

pie chart

In the remainder of this report we look in greater detail at the experience of children and family work spread across the projects funded within the PDI.