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Growing up is a tough time for any young person. Presented with a variety of choices – often with risks
attached – they can feel uncertain about their future. During this period of development, many young people
can experience personal difficulties. Certain young people, however, face more extreme problems than
others and are considered to be particularly at risk.

School excludees and truants, young offenders, looked-after children, and children of substance misusing
parents are among those who are especially vulnerable to the dangers of drugs. Their circumstances can
have a negative impact on their health, personal safety and education, and can leave them vulnerable to
criminal activity and, critically, problematic drug use. It’s vital that these young people are equipped with the
necessary skills and support to help them lead a full healthy life.

The experiences of these young people are likely to be more intense, their lifestyles more chaotic, and their
vulnerability to substance misuse more acute than those of other young people. Indeed, while Class A drug
use among young people generally has been stable since 1998 at around 8%, among vulnerable young
people the figure is closer to 13%1.

Targeted intervention work is needed, including coordination among a wide range of stakeholders, from
education, the voluntary sector and public sector services. This is essential to help those who are more
vulnerable become aware of the risks associated with substance misuse and to help them develop the
skills to make more positive choices for themselves.

This FRANK Action Update aims to give you the low down on certain groups of young people who are
considered to be among the most vulnerable in society today. It contains essential information on the issues
they face, along with activities and advice on how to engage with them, gain their trust, and help orientate
them towards a brighter future. The pack explores key issues such as self-esteem, opportunities, relationships,
and, of course, drugs, equipping you with tools to facilitate communications and prevention work on
substance misuse in your area.

FRANK IN ACTION Feedback from the public and local networks 2
VITAL STATISTICS Statistics and insights into communicating with the vulnerable 4
MOVERS AND SHAKERS Snapshots of positive practice 33
IDEAS FOR ACTION Ideas and inspiration for working with vulnerable young people 36
USEFUL RESOURCES Useful contacts, publications, resources and websites 40

Moral dilemmas
What a difference a day makes
Esteeming ahead!
Looking after you/looking out for others
The FRANKbee flyer
FRANK solutions
Know your herd
FRANK FACTS Drugs – the law
FRANK TIPS 10 ways to reach vulnerable young people
MORE FRANK Order your FRANK resources

The core audience for this Update is those who currently work (or are seeking to work) with young
FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference
people who are particularly vulnerable.
FRANK Action Update – Understanding Crack Cocaine 1
FRANK was launched in May 2003 and, in the first two years, has received over 1 million
calls to the helpline resulting in 35,000 referrals to treatment and services. More than
2.4 million visits have been made to with over 200,000 visits to
the service listings and FRANK has responded to 62,480 emails. By the start of the third
year of the campaign, 5181 stakeholders had registered at
and have been integrating FRANK into their local drug communications activities.

For news on how FRANK is progressing, and details of future plans, make sure you register at


A Department of Health ‘Caller Satisfaction’ FRANK would like to thank the following
survey in 2005 aimed to assess the effectiveness organisations for taking part in important research
of the helpline. Whilst ongoing monitoring remains that has made a significant contribution to this
essential, results so far have been encouraging: pack and to the direction of the campaign as a
whole. Without their contributions this pack would
have not been possible.

80 • Barnardo's Policy Unit

recommend to a friend or family member

79% of those referred to a 3rd party said

• BAWYC (Barnardo's Action With Young Carers)

81% said they would be ‘very likely’ to

they were ‘very likely’ to get in touch

• BASE (Barnardo's Against Sexual Exploitation)
60 • Brighton Oasis Project
50 • Children's Rights (Leeds)
‘very likely’ to call again
79% said they would be

• COSMA (Children of substance misusing adults)

53% rated the service

• Foyer Federation
9% thought it was

30 • Get Real Team (Rotherham)

as ‘excellent’

‘quite good’
35% rated it

• MASH (Manchester)
‘very good’

• Motiv8 (Portsmouth)
10 • New Horizon Youth Centre
• Potteries Housing Association
• POW (Nottingham)
More FRANK facts from the survey • STARS Project
• The average length of a call to the helpline • Southern Focus Trust (Portsmouth)
is around 11 minutes • Stonham Housing
• 28% of callers in the survey were aged 24 • SW5 (Young Men's Project)
or under, 28% were calling ‘as a parent’ • The Connection at St Martin's
• Only 4% of callers said they had had difficulty • The Who Cares? Trust
finding the number

Tell us what you’re doing – and what people are saying locally about FRANK – by emailing the
campaign team at

2 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference


From Summer 2005, FRANK entered a new phase of development. Building on

the awareness of the campaign to date, the new strategic direction focuses
on building affinity with FRANK and has a broader focus. The campaign
now includes activity on ALL illegal drugs (rather than the previous focus on
Class A), volatile substance abuse (VSA) and also incorporates information
on legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. FRANK continues to contribute
to the Government’s Public Service Agreements (PSAs) – or performance
targets – on drugs. The targets fall into three main categories:


Reduce the use of Class A drugs and the
frequent use of any illicit drug among all
young people under the age of 25, especially
by the most vulnerable young people.

Increase the participation of problem drug
users in drug treatment programmes by 100%
by 2008 [from 102,000 in 1998/9] and increase These PSAs are also reflected in the Every Child
year-on-year the proportion of users successfully Matters: Change for Children2 programme – a
sustaining or completing treatment programmes. Government initiative from DfES focusing on the
well-being of children and young people up to
the age of 19. The programme embraces five
key outcomes aiming for every child to have the
T3. HARM / CRIME / SUPPLY: necessary support to:
Reduce the harm caused by illegal drugs
(as measured by the Drug Harm Index • Be healthy
encompassing measures of the availability • Stay safe
of Class A drugs and drug-related crime) • Enjoy and achieve
including substantially increasing the number • Make a positive contribution
of drug misusing offenders entering treatment • Achieve economic well-being
through the Criminal Justice System.
Drugs are closely related to poor outcomes
for young people. Choosing not to take illegal
drugs has been identified as an aim within the
outcome ‘Be healthy’.

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 3



Through the campaign, FRANK can help
Drug Action Teams and Children’s Services
to achieve their targets and improve joint
outcomes for young people, their families
and the community via:

• Communication with parents, young

people and carers to prevent and delay
the onset and escalation of drug use
New young people drug prevention guidance • Increasing the number of appropriate
has integrated the objectives of the Updated referrals to support and treatment via
Drug Strategy and Every Child Matters. They the FRANK helpline
have been brought together in Every Child
Matters: change for children – young people
and drugs. FRANK remains a cross-government
campaign, however certain changes in the
departments’ respective areas of responsibility
have been agreed by DfES, Home Office and FRANK AUDIENCES
the Department of Health. DfES now takes the
lead with regard to young people and prevention To maximise the effectiveness of FRANK, the
policy and shares the delivery for this with the target audiences for communications have
Home Office. The Home Office is responsible for been re-prioritised as follows:
the drug strategy and is the lead on PSA Target 1,
whilst the Department of Health has responsibility PRIORITY 1
for policy and delivery of treatment and services. • Vulnerable Young People (see ‘Who are
Vulnerable Young People)

• 11-18’s (especially those contemplating
or already dabbling with drugs)
• Parents (with the priority being parents
of 11-14 year olds)

• 19-24’s (especially regular or problematic
drug users)

4 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference

At certain times in their lives, particularlly
during times of change – such as the
transition from primary to secondary school
– all young people can find themselves
vulnerable. This includes susceptibility to the
temptations and risks of drug use. However,
some groups can be particularly at risk.
These groups include:

• Young offenders
• Young people exploited by prostitution
• Looked-after children (those in care/foster
care etc)
• Young homeless
• Children of problematic drug users
• School excludees/truants
• Young refugees

These young people have been identified

as a key priority audience for FRANK
communications. Profiles on these groups
and an overview of some of the specific
issues they face can be found on pages
10-27 in this Update.

30 High Focus Areas have been selected on the
basis of local need and levels of current service
provision including deprived/high crime areas
where drug misuse problems are prevalent.
The objectives in these high focus areas are to:

• Develop and test a best practice model

• Make an early and sustained impact Thurrock, Essex, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire,
on delivery of drug services for children Westminster, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Camden,
and young people Southwark, Lambeth, Newham, Redcar &
Cleveland, Stockton-On-Tees, Middlesbrough,
National FRANK activity in these areas includes Bolton, Liverpool, Knowsley, Rochdale, Cumbria,
an increased presence on radio, advertising on Manchester, Milton Keynes, Southampton,
phone boxes and peer-to-peer street marketing, Brighton and Hove, Bristol, Plymouth, Birmingham,
developed with support from local stakeholders. Kingston Upon Hull, Bradford, Barnsley, Calderdale.

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 5


FRANK will be aiming to widen its stakeholder
ADVERTISING, PR AND PARTNERSHIPS base further, to include more professionals who
work with young people but are outside of the
A new round of satellite TV and radio drug field, (such as teachers, children’s services,
advertising will encourage trust in FRANK the criminal justice system and social services).
as the expert source of help and advice on Support for stakeholders will continue with the
drugs. Media activity is scheduled to begin publication of two FRANK Action Updates –
from October 2005 and adverts will be one concentrating on self-esteem issues and
available to view on life skills for young people, the other containing
detailed information on drugs and drug issues
PR will continue to drive the FRANK message for professionals whose main area of expertise
through features in print and broadcast is work with young people rather than drugs.
media to help bust the myths and challenge Locally-focused PR and street marketing
the taboos around talking about drugs – activities will take place in high focus areas
particularly between parents and their and the campaign is developing initiatives
children – and there will be an increased focus to help support those who are working directly
on activity with professional and trade press. with vulnerable young people in a mentoring
Following on from the success of initiatives capacity. Support activity for parents is also in
with partner organisations (such as BT, Channel the pipeline.
U and Sainsburys), the campaign will be seeking
further partnerships to help disseminate the
FRANK message in places where young people
and/or their parents are likely to be. DANOS

ONLINE AND IN PRINT Professionals outside of the drug and alcohol

field may find it useful to familiarise themselves
Both and with the Drugs & Alcohol National Occupational are being redeveloped Standards (DANOS). These specify the
to make them more accessible and FRANK standards of performance that drugs and
leaflets are currently being updated to alcohol professionals work towards and are
ensure that all materials reflect the FRANK applicable to anyone whose work involves
‘look’ and audience priorities.There will the need to deal with issues arising from drug
also be an additional leaflet available on use (including teachers, social workers, police
harm minimisation/treatment and young officers, probation officers and employers
people’s services, plus tailored materials as well as health-care professionals). DANOS
for vulnerable young people. Publication also outline the skills, knowledge and
details will be outlined on the new site understanding that individuals and agencies nearer the time. need in order to meet these standards.
See for full details.

6 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference

A number of risk factors have been identified that can increase a child or young
person’s vulnerability to the misuse of drugs. Studies have shown that social
deprivation, difficulties at home or at school and behavioural problems all play a key
role. According to the Health Advisory Service5, key indicators include a tolerant
attitude towards drugs and/or substance misuse within the family, poor or inconsistent
parenting skills (from parents or carers) and family conflict and disruption. Mental
health problems, alienation, early peer rejection, early persistent behaviour problems,
academic problems, low commitment to school, association with peers who use
drugs and the early onset of tobacco or alcohol use can also increase a young
person’s vulnerability. In this section, we profile some of the key groups of young
people who have been highlighted as among the more vulnerable in the UK
today. It is important to remember that, while ‘membership’ of these groups can
make young people more vulnerable to the effects of drug misuse, not all of them
will use drugs themselves. However, these profiles aim to provide a snapshot of
their circumstances to help inform your activities with them. Truancy, being in the
care system or coming into contact with the Criminal Justice System can be
common to many so additional information has been provided on these issues.

WHEN ARE YOUNG PEOPLE • Feel unloved – which prompts them to be

MOST VULNERABLE? careless about their health and future
• Are neglected or abused at home – lowering
The risk of a vulnerable young person taking their self confidence and (especially with
drugs intensifies when they: girls) leaving them vulnerable to people
who prey on their insecurities
• Have family problems – making it more likely
that they spend more time on the streets, Young people are at their most vulnerable
get stressed and depressed and are more when they feel they have no one to turn to
easily influenced by older, disaffected peers with their problems. Many try to struggle on
• Play truant from school – which suggests until their problems become known to someone
a child has lost respect for authority and in authority.
is at risk of adopting an alternative lifestyle
involving drugs and possibly crime
• Are taken into care – an experience which
often leaves young people feeling powerless
and isolated
• Leave care or a Young Offenders Institute –
both of which involve losing some support
and continuity and having to face up to
a new ‘adult’ life with few friends, no job,
no academic qualifications, possibly a
criminal record and the prospect of grim
housing conditions
• Become homeless – a time that is stressful
and the point at which young people often
turn to drugs for comfort

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 7

DRUGS: THE RISKS, THE SIGNS However, many of the signs could be due
AND WHAT TO DO to things other than drugs. For instance, young
people – and particularly the more vulnerable
EFFECTS AND RISKS can be secretive at the best of times, unwilling
to share information about how they think or
Drugs are unpredictable, and there’s no telling feel or what they get up to. Likewise, the life
how different substances will affect different experiences of vulnerable young people could
people. The effects of a drug will also vary impact significantly upon their appearance,
and/or intensify if mixed with alcohol or other mood and behavioural patterns. Don’t assume
drugs. Other factors to bear in mind include: it’s always to do with drugs!
drug composition; the amount taken; the
emotional and physical state of the person Signs of drug use may also be more difficult to
taking the drug; company and context. spot if the use is occasional. Only regular drug
misuse will leave obvious, discernible marks.
All drugs carry the risk of mental or physical
harm. Some are more dangerous than others
and are more likely to result in serious damage
or death. But even the misuse of legal
substances can put users at risk. The sniffing and
inhalation of solvents, for instance, can result in
instant death. Log on to the A-Z of drugs at for detailed information
on the risks and effects of different drugs.


So, how can you tell if young people you know

or work with are taking drugs? Telltale signs
might include:

• Lack of money and increasing involvement

in crime, especially theft
• Stains and smells: fingers, hands and clothing
can become soiled and stained, while the EVIDENCE
smell of cigarette-smoke, cannabis and gas
can linger for some time For additional confirmation of drug use, you
• Lying may find that drug paraphernalia is more
• Aggression evident than drugs themselves. Things to look
• Mood-swings or loss of appetite out for include:
• Secretiveness: drug users tend to be very
closed off, reluctant to share information even • Scorched pieces of tinfoil
with friends • Razor blades
• Sleepiness and drowsiness • Discarded aerosol cans, tubes of glue, lighters
• Sudden changes in behaviour • Blackened spoons
• Loss of interest in school, hobbies, sport, friends • Homemade pipes
• Steady weight loss • Syringes
• Neglect of personal appearance and hygiene • Rizla papers, torn rizla packets

8 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference


The most important thing when talking to young If young people do take drugs, it is important
people about drugs – and particularly vulnerable that they know what they are doing. Young
young people, who are often more resistant to people often think they know the score, but are
advice and information – is to build a solid often ignorant as to the actual risks and effects
foundation of trust. Come at it calmly; listen to of drugs. For instance, they are often unaware
what they have to say, and reassure them that of the risks of mixing drugs with alcohol and/or
it’s OK for them to talk to you openly about what other substances. It is essential they know that
they’ve been doing. If you overreact or censure certain cocktails can be lethal:
them for their behaviour, you’re likely to lose
that trust in an instant and shut down lines of • Cocaine and tranquillisers: can confuse the
communication. Vulnerable young people can heart and increase the risk of overdose
take a lot of coaxing and encouragement to • Crack cocaine and alcohol, barbiturates
open up, but will be out of the door in a flash if or heroin: increases the risk of overdose
they get even a whiff of a lecture or a sermon. • Heroin and alcohol: can be fatal
Trying to persuade young people to just ‘say • Heroin and LSD: can cause unpredictable
no’ or that drugs are wrong and bad will get and unpleasant effects
you nowhere. Instead, nudge them towards • Ecstasy with LSD (known as ‘candyflipping’):
alternative options; get them to consider other can conceal the warning signs of a bad trip
means of release and escape and excitement. • Speed and anti-depressants or alcohol: can
be fatal
Before you engage with them, make sure
you’re up to speed with the latest drug facts. They should also be aware of the social
Some ‘street-lingo’ could come in handy. problems and risks to their own personal safety
Knowing your ‘blow’ from your ‘whizz’, for associated with drugs, such as aggression,
instance, will earn you some respect. It’s violence, accidents and crime.
also essential that you are clear about your
organisation’s policy on drugs so that you Make them aware of the following harm
know exactly where you stand: there may reduction tips:
be certain limits on what you can and can’t
say or recommend. • If taking ecstasy, sip water, juice or sports fluids
(no more than a pint an hour)
• Watch out for overheating in clubs: take
people outside if it looks like they’re getting
too hot
• Don’t share needles if substances are being
• If drinking, eat well beforehand, drink plenty
of water, stick to one type of drink and pace
the intake of alcohol

See the loose sheet ‘Drugs – the law’ for

details on the legal status of drugs.

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 9

YOUNG OFFENDERS Interestingly, young offenders (almost half)
are far more likely than non-offenders (about
Vulnerable young people may have multiple a third) to believe that parental reaction is
vulnerabilities. Young offenders, notably, will a deterrent to young people when it comes
often be young people from any of the to likelihood of offending8. Offenders in
highlighted ‘at risk’ groups. mainstream education are more likely to
be from single-parent households6. A significant
link exists between offending and being
SNAPSHOT excluded from school – 38% of those who
commit serious offences are also excludees1.
• The peak age for offending is 14 years6
• Boys are more likely to offend than girls6 PREVALENCE OF DRUG USE
• A quarter of young people in mainstream
education and 60% of excluded young 13% of serious* or frequent young offenders –
people have committed a criminal act6 those who have committed a serious offence
• Among mainstream offenders, the most and/or six offences of any kind in the past
common age at the time of committing year – use drugs1. The most commonly used
the first offence is 11-12 years compared drug is cannabis followed by cocaine, ecstasy
to 10-11 years for those offenders excluded and amyl nitrate. Serious or frequent offenders
from school6 also show the highest levels of drug use for
• The majority of offenders commit crimes speed, amyl nitrate, solvents, hallucinogens,
with their friends – the most common crack cocaine and heroin of all the defined
crimes being arson, taking a car or bike, vulnerable groups. In recent reports6 50% of
graffiti, buying drugs, handling stolen young offenders in custody said they used
goods and shoplifting6 Class A drugs, making them one of the groups
• Lone offenders are more likely to have most vulnerable to substance misuse.
assaulted a family member, used stolen
credit cards, snatched from a person or
stolen from home6
• Significantly higher levels of girls than boys
who re-offend either graffiti or shoplift6


Young people tend to cite a number of reasons

for committing offences, the most common being:

• For fun
• Boredom
• They perceive there is only a small chance
of being caught
• To impress or being influenced by their friends
The age of criminal responsibility in England
and Wales is 10 years. Children under 10 are
immune from prosecution except in extreme

10 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT it can respond to the needs of young offenders
in a comprehensive way to identify suitable
THE YOUTH JUSTICE SYSTEM programmes that can help reduce the likelihood
of the young person re-offending.
The youth justice system comprises Youth
Offending Teams (YOTs), the police, youth courts
and institutions where young people are held PREVENTION
in custody such as Secure Training Centres
(STCs), Local Authority Secure Children’s Homes If a young person has not offended by the
(LASCHs) and Young Offender Institutions (YOIs). age of 14, they are generally unlikely to do
The principal aim of the youth justice system is so9. Early intervention is vital in work aiming
to prevent offending by children and young to prevent involvement in crime and/or
people under the age of 18. drug misuse for all vulnerable young people.
There are a number of early intervention
YOTs are made up of representatives from the and diversionary initiatives that exist such as
police, Probation Service, social services, health, Drug Interventions Programme (DIP), Positive
education, drug and alcohol misuse services and Activities for Young People and Positive Futures.
housing. Every local authority in England and Wales See for further
has one and each has a manager responsible information.
for co-ordinating the work of the youth justice
services. Because the team incorporates *Serious offences include vehicle theft, burglary, robbery,
theft from a person, assault causing injury and dealing
representatives from a wide range of services, in Class A drugs.


Young offenders may come into contact with a number of professionals or agencies, depending on
their level of offending, and it can be helpful to know who is likely to be involved at different stages.

Young person’s situation Professional Involvement

• At risk of offending • YOT, LEA, Social Services, Police

• Admits guilt for first or second minor • Police, YOT, Local Authority
offence or is behaving anti-socially
• Charged by the police after further • Police, YOT, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
offences or more serious offence
• Bailed or remanded in custody* • Police, YOT, CPS, Solicitor, Youth Court
• Appearance in Youth court • YOT, solicitor, CPS, Youth or Crown Court
(or Crown Court if a serious offence)
• Facing sentencing • Youth or Crown Court
• Has been sentenced • YOT or custody

*This can be conditional or unconditional bail, to local authority accommodation or secure remand to custody. Young
people on secure remand are usually placed in Local Authority Secure Children’s Homes or Secure Training Centres.

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 11

In England and Wales, education is compulsory • An estimated 82% of permanent exclusion
for children aged 5-16. A parent or carer is are boys, 62% are aged 13,14,or 1512
legally required by law to ensure that their child • Bullying appears to be a significant factor
receives full-time education either at school in girls’ decisions to truant13
or by ‘education otherwise’ (the parent can • Pupils with special educational needs are
choose to educate their child at home). Failure four times more likely to be excluded12
to do this is a criminal offence that can result • The rate of permanent exclusion in England
in prosecution. Despite what many parents among Black Caribbean pupils has halved
believe, responsibility for authorising absence since 1997/98, to 37 for every 10,000 pupils
lies with the school, NOT the parents or carers. of compulsory school age in 2002/03.
However, this was still three times the rate
Children who do not engage with school are for white pupils14
among the most vulnerable of young people. • Up to 40% of parents who have taken their
A truant or excludee is more likely to experience children out of school for family holidays,
teenage pregnancy, homelessness or come into do not believe this would have an impact
contact with the Criminal Justice System. They on their education15
are also more likely to be unemployed upon
leaving school. A disproportionate number of
truants and excludees are children from Black
and ethnic minority (BEM) communities – WHY DO YOUNG PEOPLE SKIP SCHOOL?
especially African Caribbean boys – and those
in the care system. Truants and excludees are not a homogenous
group with one clear set of reasons for
disengaging with school – each child may
SNAPSHOT experience a unique pattern of causal factors.
However, from the occasional truant to the
• Everyday over 50,000 pupils miss a day habitual non-attender to those who are
of school without permission, and an excluded (temporarily or permanently), in the
estimated 7.5 million school days are majority – but not all – cases, the decision to
missed each year through truancy10 truant is taken by the child themselves. Young
• Absence from schools overall was people tend to cite the following as the main
estimated at almost 7% in 2003-4, reasons for skipping school:
over 5% for primary schools and 8%
for secondary schools11 • The influence of friends and peers – as a
• Since they began in December 2002, status-seeking activity or as a way of joining
the national truancy sweeps have in or blending in
apprehended over 31,000 truants – • Relationships with teachers
almost half of whom were accompanied • Boredom with school
by an adult10 • Family factors – either parental attitudes
• There is a strong link between school or family problems (including being kept
attendance and attainment. Nearly off school by parents)
half of children achieve 5 or more good • Bullying
GCSEs. Only 8% of persistent truants • The classroom context – either because of
reach this standard10 teachers’ inability to control, or problems
arising from the child’s own personality or
learning abilities

12 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference

• Persistent truants and excludees share
Research suggests that a significant number the highest levels of drug use with
of young people turn up for registration but young offenders2
then skip individual lessons throughout the • Truants show the highest use for cannabis
day. This means that, whilst official figures show and ecstasy1
that levels of truancy are staying roughly • Excluded young people show a tendency
stable, the real extent of truancy may be toward earlier use of volatile substances
underestimated. than those in mainstream education8
• 16% of truants have used a Class A drug
There is growing evidence of unofficial and in the past year1
informal exclusions and girls are thought
to be more vulnerable to these types of A survey17 carried out with almost 5,000 young
exclusion. Girls may face a different set of people aged 12-30 in England and Wales in
(often hidden) circumstances which mean 1998-1999, suggested that 50% of truants and
that their needs can be overlooked. These excludees have used drugs. This compares to
may include caring responsibilities at home 15% of school attenders. In the same survey,
or teenage pregnancy. Their needs may 7% of excludees said they used a Class A drug
also be overshadowed by the difficulties of at least monthly but only a fraction of truants
managing the much greater numbers of and non-attenders reported doing so.
boys who truant or are excluded.

Professionals often categorise the key issues in truancy in terms of personal factors, family
and community factors and school factors:


Parentally-condoned absence School systems allowing pupils
to slip away unnoticed
Not valuing education
Systems not in place to deter
Domestic problems
Relationships with teachers
and peers
Economic deprivation Relevance of school and the
Community lack of self-esteem curriculum to these pupils

Lack of self-esteem Poor peer relations Poor concentration/
Poor social skills Low academic ability self management skills
Low confidence Special needs

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 13

WHAT HAPPENS TO TRUANTS easier monitoring of their progress. It is argued
AND EXCLUDEES? that attendance projects for younger children
who have not yet become disaffected are
It is not just missing out on academic learning more likely to be effective. This is also more
that causes problems for serial truants and cost-effective than special provision to support
excludees. Disengagement with education can the return to school of long-term truants.
also affect their social development and further
lack of integration within society. This can lead INVOLVING PARENTS AND OTHERS
to a vicious circle of social exclusion which
impacts not only on these young people and Closer work with parents through parenting
their achievements but also on their skills as classes or Parenting Contracts for parents whose
parents of future generations. children are truanting or have behaviour problems,
can help them develop more effective skills
Local Education Authorities aim to re-integrate to assist their child’s development, administer
children who are permanently excluded back appropriate discipline and ensure attendance
into the school system. However, in 1998 an at school. The aim is to support parents but also
estimated two thirds12 ended up losing their to reinforce their legal responsibilities through
entitlement to full-time education and received a series of sanctions for those who fail to ensure
‘education otherwise’, arranged by the LEAs an education for their child. These sanctions
either in special centres known as Pupil Referral include Parenting Orders, Fixed Penalty Notices
Units, through home tuition (which may be as and fast track to prosecution. The use of
little as a few hours a week) or in a Further Learning Mentors can help build positive
Education College. It is estimated that it costs relationships with children and parents and
about four times as much to provide this than Peer Mentors can help provide a support
mainstream schooling but that, on average, network. Counselling and pastoral support
such pupils receive only 10 per cent of a full programmes can also help.
education18. The Government has now set out
a requirement that, from 2002, all excluded IMPROVING BEHAVIOUR
pupils should receive full-time education.
Under the DfES Improving Behaviour and
TACKLING THE PROBLEM Attendance Strategy, truancy sweeps were
introduced in 2002 to actively find the number
Current thinking aims to try to break this cycle of truants on the streets and schools are
of exclusion through a series of preventative given guidance on managing absence and
measures and interventions involving parents behaviour and attendance training. Schools
to address the underlying causes of truancy now work closely with the Education Welfare
and behavioural problems. Service to determine the course of action
that should be taken in cases of serious non-
PREVENTING DISAFFECTION attendance. Other agencies such as Social
Services, Connexions, the Police or Youth
Professionals are encouraged to tackle Offending Teams are also often involved to
disaffection by using imaginative ways to encourage a holistic approach to the issue.
engage young people with the curriculum and
to spot emerging signs that a young person For further information on tackling truancy,
may be having difficulties. This approach gives see the Improving Behaviour and Attendance
additional support to those with special needs, Strategy website –
to help them engage with learning and for behaviourandattendance.

14 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference

Looked-after children are those who are
legally ‘looked after’ by the local authority or • At 30 September 2004 there were 45,000
Health and Social Services Departments. They children who had been looked after
may or may not be the subject of a Care continuously for at least twelve months by
Order. Typically, they may be in residential care, English local authorities20
special schools or in foster care. Some may be • 35,300 of these children were of school
in ‘kinship’ care where they are looked after by age and of these 27% had statements
a member of their family. Some live away from of Special Educational Needs20
their parents because of child protection issues, • 3 in 4 care leavers have basic skills needs21
family problems, including bereavement or their • 54% of young people leave care with no
own behavioural problems (including offending qualifications compared to 5% of their
or substance misuse). A disproportionate number peers22
of children in public care are disabled. Black • Three months after leaving school, nearly
children and children of mixed ethnic origins a quarter of children in care were not
are also over-represented whilst some other in education, training or employment
ethnic minority communities are under- of any kind23
represented (eg Asian and Asian British). A • Children in care are 10 times more likely
number of important factors contribute to a to be excluded from school12
young person’s experience of being ‘looked • The largest category of need for looked-
after’. These include the age they enter care, after children is abuse or neglect (62%);
the reasons that brought them there and the 11% of children are in care due to
number of placements that they experience dysfunction in the family24
and the support and services they receive. • Amongst children in care, 45% of those
aged 5 to 17 years have mental health
Looked-after children are disadvantaged in disorders25
many ways. As well as issues arising from their • Children from Black and ethnic minority
backgrounds (including poor self-esteem and groups are over-represented in the care
little experience of praise or encouragement), system: accounting for nearly one in five
many will have ongoing family issues to face of those in care, but just one in ten of the
on top of the feelings associated with being general population25
away from their parent(s). Their education is • Children in care are three times more
disrupted as they often change schools when likely to be cautioned or convicted than
their placements change and their home their peers21
environment may not be conducive to study. • Children in care are more likely to
Statistically, children in care do significantly less experience emotional and behavioural
well than others at school and are three times problems including mood swings,
more likely to be unemployed on leaving depression, aggression, eating disorders
school than other school leavers. Research and self-harm26
has suggested that low expectations of these
young people’s abilities by professionals and
an underestimation of the difficulties they face
can contribute to this19.

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 15

PREVALENCE OF DRUG USE contact with. The Judge must agree the Care
Plan before issuing a Care Order. A Care Order
• Looked-after young people tend to start automatically ends when the child reaches
using drugs at an earlier age, at higher 18. However, social services are obliged to
levels and more regularly than their peers28 continue to offer help, such as with finding
• The most commonly used drug is cannabis, accommodation, until the young person is 21.
followed by ecstasy then glue, gases and
solvents26 After a Care Order has been issued, the
• Cannabis use among young people in Children’s Guardian, solicitor and people who
residential care is estimated at two to three have prepared reports on the child (such as
times higher than among other young doctors) may no longer be regularly – if at all
people26 – involved with the child unless there is referral
• Looked-after children are four times more back to the Court. If the child is unhappy with
likely to smoke, drink and use drugs than the arrangements (including their relationship
those in private households27 with their social worker) they need to go back
• 80% of serial runaways have used drugs to the Courts to have any changes considered.
compared to 42% of young people who
have never run away from home17 FOSTER CARE

IN ‘THE SYSTEM’ Foster care can be short-term – lasting for a

few days, weeks or sometimes longer – while
Looked-after young people may come into other arrangements are being made for the
contact with a wide range of professionals child’s care. Long-term foster care is for a
and procedures. Many have a number longer period. Task-centred foster homes take
of people making decisions for them from children for a special reason, such as to help
education and health professionals through with transition to a permanent family or help
to social workers, foster carers, the courts with a specific problem the child may have.
and other specialists.
Decisions concerning a child’s welfare and
In the lead-up to being taken into care, the about their future are made by the courts or
child will have contact with social services, those with ‘Parental Responsibility’. Decisions
a solicitor, a Children’s Guardian (an include where a child will live, with whom, how
independent social worker appointed by the long for, who they can contact, where they
Judge to represent the child’s interests during should go to school and whether they should
the court proceedings) and, often, health be subject to a Care Order. They can also
professionals. They may at this point already include decisions over their health care and
be with foster carers, in a residential home, whether the young person can marry (if 16
living with a relative or still with their parents. or 17), have a tattoo or piercing, own a mobile
This decision is taken by the social worker who phone, take a part-time job while at school,
should take the child’s views into account. stay overnight with friends or go abroad.
A Care Plan is agreed by their social worker, If the young person wishes to stay overnight
parents and themselves with input from the elsewhere, police checks may need to be
Children’s Guardian. The Care Plan states done to ensure the place is safe. Someone
where they will live, who with, what they need else may also take the decision whether or
in order to be looked after properly, where not a teenage mother is allowed to live with
they will go to school and who they will have the father of her child.

16 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference

FEARS AND VULNERABILITIES looked after by a local authority but not on
a Care Order.
These measures are in place to protect the
child and best practice encourages taking In some cases, the child may not wish to see
the child’s own views into account. However, their parent(s) or wants to see them and is not
young people in care often report feeling that allowed to for their own protection. The family
they are not in control of their own lives and may also not wish to have contact with the
are not involved in making decisions that affect child and they cannot be forced to do so.
them. Some are extremely suspicious of and Aside from issues of trust and rejection –
reactionary towards authority and ‘the system’ including relationships with carers – the issue of
and recoil from being told what to do. They contact can impact significantly on a looked-
may be uncommunicative, feel misunderstood, after child’s relationships with others. They may
exhibit a sense of frustration or feel different have distorted boundaries and expectations
from their friends who they perceive to be and be vulnerable to relationships that
automatically allowed to do things that they negatively affect their self-esteem or welfare.
themselves feel they have to fight for the right
to do. Such young people may have issues THE TRANSITION TO INDEPENDENCE
around control and their decision-making abilities.
When young people leave care, in addition
Young mothers or pregnant girls may have to the emotional and behavioural difficulties
fears that their own baby will be taken away they may have experienced, they also face
from them, although the reality is that decisions a number of practical challenges, including
will be taken on the basis of whether or not setting up home, getting a job, coping
the girl is considered capable of looking financially and managing their personal
after her child. relationships on their own. They may also be
concerned about continuing with education
Girls, especially, may fall prey to adults (usually, because of financial worries about how they
but not always male), who seek young people are going to support themselves.
for sexual purposes. They may have particularly
skewed boundaries leaving them vulnerable to The transition time from care to independent
manipulation, especially through the grooming living is a vulnerable time for young people.
process (see page 21). Their disrupted, and often traumatic,
experiences can cause some to feel that they
RELATIONSHIPS WITH PARENTS are not important enough for people to want
AND CARERS to make things succeed for them and that it
is acceptable to break up relationships. This
Looked after children may have a number of can create problems in sustaining relationships
issues with relationships and communication. and engaging with the workplace. These young
Their relationships with their parents may be people are considered to be more vulnerable
complex (including those arising from neglect to having or developing problems with drugs.
or abuse) and there may be restrictions on
contact through a Contact Order issued by the Whilst drug use tends to decline as care leavers
court. This states who the child can and cannot begin to live independently, a fifth of these
see or speak to and where and when contact young people have said that they used drugs
can take place. It can include seeing or speaking more often after leaving care due to increased
on the phone and sending or receiving letters, access to a range of drugs, more money, peer
emails or presents. The court has no power to influence or changes in their social lives or to
make contact orders when the child is being combat loneliness. Chaotic transitions, involving

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 17

periods of homelessness, staying in hostels or SUPPORTING LOOKED-AFTER CHILDREN
forming inappropriate relationships, are closely
associated with heavy drug use. Drugs are just A Social Exclusion Unit Report30 highlighted
one of the issues they face so should be part several important action points to help improve
of a holistic plan. Drug education focusing the lives of young people in, and leaving, care.
on help in resisting pressure to take drugs or The report recommended:
moving on to ‘harder’ drugs is thought to be
particularly useful, especially for those who live • Greater stability – so that children in
in hostels. However, in general, young people care do not have to move home or
leaving care do appear to grow out of drug school so often
use more quickly than the general population29. • Less time out of school, longer in education
– help with school admissions, better access
to education, more support to help them
At age 16, young people in the care system attend regularly and stay on after 16
are appointed a Personal Advisor and • Help with schoolwork – more individual
develop a Pathways Plan. This covers things support tailored to the child backed by
like accommodation, education (school or more training for teachers and social workers
college), budgeting and financial support • More help from home to support schoolwork
etc and must be completed within 3 months – by giving carers better training in children’s
of the young person’s 16th birthday. It is education
added to, and part of, the young person’s • Improved health and well-being – with
Care Plan and covers the time up to their teachers, social care staff, health workers
21st birthday, including contingencies for and carers all working together in the
if things go wrong. The relationship with interests of the child
the Personal Advisor is meant to continue
throughout this period so that they have The current policies and guidance laid out in
access to a consistent source of support. the Social Care section of Every Child Matters:
Change for Children were developed based
on these principles.

For further information on the legal

framework and measures in place to
address the needs of looked-after children,
see the Children Act 2004 and the DfES
publication Every Child Matters: Change
for Children in Social Care.

Those leaving care often benefit from both

professional and informal sources of support.
Help from professionals with developing and
pursuing career options is particularly welcomed
and emotional encouragement, often from
family and substitute family members, has been
proven to help young people to stay engaged
with what they are doing.

18 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference

Specific best practice support to help Abuse through prostitution can take different
improve the educational attainment forms. It may involve children and young
of looked-after children recommends people being given money, drugs or
the following: accommodation in return for sex with one
or more men. Or, it may involve them being
• Create a supportive care environment – exploited in a more ‘formal’ state of prostitution.
where learning is valued and young
people have space and peace and
quiet to study and access to resources SNAPSHOT
such as stationery, books, computers
• It is estimated that in the UK up to
• Enhance motivation and self-esteem 5,000 young people may be involved
in prostitution31
• Recognise achievements of looked-after • Girls are more likely than boys to be
young people. abused in this way, with a female to
male ratio of 4:131
• Support leisure time activities such as • Police statistics show that two thirds of child
looking after animals, sport, volunteering exploitation goes on behind closed doors
and part-time work • Children who are sexually exploited are
often criminalised. 210 children aged 17
• Address disaffection with school or ease and under were convicted of offences
practical difficulties eg supporting relating to prostitution in 1996 compared
teenage mothers to 101 children in 1995. The number of
cautions also rose slightly from 263 to 28731
• Take ambitions seriously and plan for • In 1988, 35 people were cautioned or
higher education charged with child pornography offences.
By 2001 that number had risen to 549,
• Improve communication between a 1,500 % increase25
professionals (eg education and social • 78% of vulnerable sex workers have
services) been in the looked-after system32
• Three quarters have experienced
• Arrange events and award ceremonies homelessness or insecure housing32

• Provide transport to and from schools

and leisure activities

• Provide educational support eg revision

clubs, extra tuition pre exam, help with
reading and homework

• Consult young people on their

experiences and what motivates them

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 19


Difficult life experiences – such as violence or Girls in particular may get involved in an
abuse at home, homelessness, exclusion from exploitative relationship with a boyfriend.
school, being in the looked-after system or being The young man, meets a girl (usually 12-14)
limited by poverty and debt – can all make a and impresses her with his maturity and by
child more at risk of being sexually exploited. the way he treats her. They begin a sexual
Some may be drawn into prostitution through relationship and she falls in love, subsequently
their substance misuse. Others may turn to becoming dependent and then controlled by
substance misuse, either through being introduced him. He then manipulates her into prostitution.
to drugs as part of the exploitation or to help
them cope with their situation. Young people This may take the form of ‘sharing’ her with
commonly cite the following as background friends or through forcing her to work as a
to becoming involved in prostitution: prostitute. The girls often say that they agree
because they love their boyfriend and would
• Family problems/arguments “do anything for him”.
• Physical or sexual abuse at home
• Running away from home or care TRAPPED
• Becoming homeless
• Needing a place to stay Many become trapped in the situation for fear
• Needing money for living expenses or of being beaten (or worse) or feel so ashamed
drugs for themselves or someone else of their situation that they find it difficult to
(especially those who are under-age make contact with family or friends outside
and unable to support themselves) their immediate circle. They often don’t want
• Being unable to get a mainstream to have to explain what they do for fear of
job because of drug use being judged. Their peers become others
• Being co-erced by a boyfriend who are in the same marginalised situation.
• Being introduced to drugs by a parent
• Being introduced to prostitution through friends THE CONSEQUENCES
• Being lured into a ‘relationship’ via the internet
Being exploited in this way can have complex
Young people may also become involved and far-reaching repercussions. Aside from the
through being trafficked from other countries damage to confidence and self-esteem, they
on the false promise of a job and new life in may fear for their safety through living with the
Britain. Some may have been abused through threat of violence or punishment for not
posing for pornographic photographs which complying with the exploiter’s wishes.
may appear on the web. Whilst there is no
single pre-cursor, an abuse of power and The child or young person can also be at risk of
preying on a child or young person’s sexually transmitted disease, especially through
vulnerability is involved in all cases. unsafe practices. In addition, they can be at risk
of violence or rape from punters or the people
Whilst many young people may view their who control them, due to being forced into
situation as their fault, it should always be dangerous situations, tempted by the promise
remembered that they cannot and do not of more money, or through being under the
consent to their own sexual abuse. They are influence of drugs or alcohol.
victims, and need to be viewed as children
in need.

20 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference

Girls may end up pregnant, experience
terminations or, if they go through with the GROOMING ON THE INTERNET
pregnancy, have their child taken into care.
Both boys and girls may end up isolated from old Some adults use the internet as a means to
friends and family and indulge in self-destructive strike up a sexual relationship with a young
behaviour such as self-mutilation, overdosing, person. The adult ‘hangs around’ in an
eating disorders and problems with drugs. Internet Chatroom and begins an online
conversation with a young person who
seems vulnerable. They then invite the child
Young women under 16 can be charged to a private area of the chatroom to get
with soliciting even though a man is to know them better, posing either as a
committing an offence by having sex with potential boyfriend or confidant and, over
them. However, the police tend to view time, elicit personal information from them.
women under 16 as victims of crime. They Next they may start chatting privately via
will often try to return them to their home or instant messaging or mobile phone, eventually
carers rather than charge them and may get culminating in a face-to-face meeting. The
social services involved in looking at why they adult makes the young person feel special
were ’working’ in the first place. Boyfriends and creates conditions that prepare the
or male friends and family can be charged child to be sexually molested. There may be
with living off the earnings of prostitution. increased sexual content in conversations
followed by increased sexual touching. For
advice on staying safe in chatrooms, see

It can be difficult to tell whether a young person

is being sexually exploited. Some are able to tell
someone, some may give subtle clues that need
to be interpreted, but many keep it to themselves.
Building a trusting relationship and keeping an
open mind to anything that is told is crucial.
Children who have appeared in abusive
images have specific therapeutic needs. They
may be ashamed and find it difficult to face the
world, not knowing who has seen the images.

Young people who have been abused have

complex needs and work with them needs
a holistic approach to provide practical help
(such as finding accommodation and getting
access to health care and education) as well
as addressing issues of abuse, homelessness,
drug use, sexual health and general well being.
One-to-one support, crisis intervention and For further information on children involved
access to a ‘safe’ place where they can do in prostitution, see ‘Safeguarding Children
domestic activities are considered important. Involved in Prostitution’ Published by the
Department of Health (2000).

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 21


Under the Housing Act 1996, someone Young homeless are predominantly male,
is statutorily homeless if they don’t have with a ratio of 2:138. BEM groups are under-
accommodation that is legally and physically represented among rough sleepers but over-
available to them and which it would be represented among other categories of
reasonable for them to continue to occupy. homelessness. Refugees and asylum seekers
This includes rough sleeping, living in insecure tend to be the most isolated.
accommodation such as squats, B&Bs, night
shelters or sleeping on a friend’s floor. Many young homeless have run away from
home due to problems within the family
including dysfunction, family conflict, violence
SNAPSHOT or abuse. They may have experienced neglect
• It is estimated that a fifth of 16-24 year or rejection or have been kicked out of the
olds will experience homelessness at family home. It is not uncommon for young
some point in their lives33 people to say that they would prefer to be
• 1 in 8 of homeless young people (up to homeless than continue being abused. Young
6,700) may have recent experience of people are more likely to run away when they
rough sleeping. That's equivalent to about have no-one to talk to, they don’t know what
5 comprehensive secondary schools34 else to do, they don’t know where to go for
• Of those young people who have slept help or the help they need is not available.
rough, 80% have tried drugs, compared
with 53% of those who haven’t slept rough35 A large number may be homeless through
• Up to 52,000 young people were found running away from care or find themselves
homeless by local authorities in England without accommodation after leaving care
in 2003. This is about 1 in 60 of all 15-19 or a young offender’s institution. Some are
year-olds in England, or the total number homeless through their drug use. Others
of all 15-19 year olds living in a major city develop problems with drugs. For all, the fact
such as Leeds34 of being homeless will have a huge impact,
• An estimated 100,000 children run away not least on their confidence, self-esteem
from home each year in Britain. One in and physical and emotional health.
nine 14 and 15 year olds will run away
from home each year36
• From the age of 14, girls are twice as likely
to run away as boys37
• By the age of 16, one in nine children
will have run away for at least one night36
• 7% of runaways are physically or sexually
assaulted while away from home37
• An estimated 18,000 children a year
are thrown out by their parents36

22 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference


Becoming homeless can increase a young • Single homeless people with drug
person’s exposure to a range of vulnerabilities. problems do not have to be accepted
In addition to the exacerbation of the personal by local authorities as vulnerable and
and psychological problems that they may thus eligible for re-housing
already face, they may also become vulnerable • Drug users may not be able to get
to health problems and be at risk of assault or housing or may lose their housing through
other physical dangers. They may have higher being screened out and thus unable to
exposure to (or an acceleration of) drug use access social housing
due to its prevalence among homeless people • Eligibility criteria of housing providers
generally and may resort to begging, sex work offering supported housing to vulnerable
and street crime – all of which are also closely groups often excludes those with drug
linked to drug use. There is also considerable or severe alcohol problems
overlap between drug problems and alcohol • Rent arrears or not knowing how to make
and mental health problems. a housing application may cause a
problem for drug users trying to access
• Drugs users, particularly young people,
In a recent study39 83% of homeless people are perceived as being, unlikely to be
interviewed had used a substance other consistent with rent or other payments,
than alcohol in the last month. Two thirds cited likely to cause disputes with other tenants,
drug or alcohol use as a reason for becoming or to be involved in other crime, including
homeless and four out of five said that they dealing or ‘sex work’
had started using at least one new drug since • Drug users who lose their accommodation
they became homeless. as a result of a very poor tenancy record
and rent arrears are unlikely to be re-
ADDRESSING THE ISSUE housed until debts have been cleared
• Drug users are less likely to find suitable
Homeless young people can find themselves accommodation and, if they have lost
unable to break out of their situation. They tenancies, find it difficult to be re-housed
often lack the basic skills and support networks
to be able to turn their lives around and so
remain on the margins of society. Lack of
money and basic provision (many are not Homelessness is not simply a housing issue.
even registered with a GP or dentist) can Addressing the needs of young people
help perpetuate this. who find themselves without a place
to live requires consideration of the
Whilst homelessness itself is not a crime, circumstances that contributed to their
homeless young people may become involved homelessness, understanding of the issues
in anti-social behaviour such as aggressive they face and support to help them access
begging, stealing, drug dealing and prostitution housing and services and to manage their
to support themselves. For those under 16, legal lives. This requires integrated working
employment is rarely an option and benefits between agencies.
inapplicable. Those over 16 also face barriers
to breaking the cycle of ‘no home-no job’,
especially if they misuse substances.

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 23

Good practice includes: DRUG USERS
• Education to prevent homelessness
eg in schools Problem drug use by parents can cause serious
• Proactive outreach to rough sleepers harm to children and young people of any
to encourage them into temporary age. It is often the use of multiple drugs, often
accommodation by injection and can be typically chaotic and
• Practical support unpredictable. Some parents are able to provide
• Personal and social development basic care for their children and attempt to
• Day centres protect them from the impact of their drug use.
• Specialist hostels with drug services For many, however, problematic drug use can
provision have a strongly negative impact on parenting
• Supported tenancies and tenancy skills and therefore seriously affect the child’s
breakdown prevention schemes development. These young people are at a
greater risk of being excluded from school,
offending and becoming young parents.


• There are an estimated 200,000 to

300,000 children in England and Wales
where one or both parents have serious
problems with drugs40
• This represents 2-3% of all young people
under 1640
• Almost two thirds of fathers and a third
of mothers don’t live with their children40
• Most children not living with their drug-
using parents live with other relatives40
• 5% are looked-after in the care system40
• A recent review of 290 cases of childcare
concerns in London found that 34%
involved parental drug or alcohol misuse40
• A significant number of older children
whose parents use drugs, regularly use
For further information on homelessness cannabis but don’t regard it as a drug41
and young people, contact Centrepoint on
020 7426 5300 or at

There can be a number of health implications

for a child even before birth due to poor
maternal nutrition during pregnancy. In some
cases, the young person can also be exposed
to the risk of contracting blood borne viruses
such as Hepatitis C and HIV, both before birth

24 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference

and in infancy. They may also be exposed PREVALENCE OF DRUG USE
to a range of substances and the hazards
associated with having drugs and drug Young people who have been brought up
paraphernalia in the home from an early age. around problematic drug use seem to fall into
Lack of adequate general health care can two camps when it comes to their own views
mean some have incomplete immunisation of drugs. Some regard drug use as a normal
and poor nutrition. part of life and can be more likely to drink, smoke
or misuse drugs themselves42. Others are anti-
The child may suffer a range of physical drugs due to what they have seen happen
and emotional problems from the effects to their parent(s). Interestingly, however, the
of poverty, physical and emotional abuse, majority of young people in this latter situation,
neglect, inadequate supervision, intermittent still do not think of cannabis as a drug.
or permanent separation from their parent(s),
inadequate accommodation, frequent COMPLEX NEEDS
changes in residence and interrupted
education. Their parents’ lives may also bring Children whose parents have problems with
them into contact with criminal activity. drugs often have complex needs. Many have
not only seen the effects of their parents’ drug
Not all children of problematic drug users use but have also witnessed the drug use itself.
will have behavioural difficulties, however Many take on a carer role for their parents and
behavioural problems can be typical. The younger siblings. They are often acutely aware
uncertainty and chaos of their family life of the stigma attached to having parents with
can cause emotional worries which, in turn, drug problems and may hide their parent’s
can affect the child’s concentration. Some drug use from friends and family, and can be
may then be in a cycle of poor school too ashamed to bring their own friends home.
attendance (whether of their own accord Young people often feel that they are
or through having to stay at home to care responsible for their parents’ drug use and feel
for their parent(s)) and low attainment. Bullying angry and frustrated about it. They may direct
can be a real concern. Some may also face this anger outwardly, or internalise it and be at
exclusion from school. Others become homeless, risk of self-harming. All of this can lead to the
either through being forced out of home or young person being extremely isolated.
through not being able to watch any more.
Issues of trust and expectations of confidentiality
are crucial. They may be particularly afraid of
saying anything for fear of getting their parents
into trouble or can be worried that their parents
may come to harm, die or be imprisoned.
Some may have parents who fund their drug
use through prostitution and crime. What
appears to be common to the vast majority,
is the hurt and embarrassment that they feel
about their parent’s behaviour.

Many fear that they will be taken away from

their parents – indeed, a large proportion end
up being intermittently (or permanently) looked
after by relatives or in the care system.

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 25

Addressing such a range of physical, emotional A number of factors have been identified
and practical needs can be complex. The key that point to increased risks of drug use.
areas of concern however are: These include barriers to education, family
breakdown, mental health problems,
• Reducing harm to children homelessness, involvement in crime, poverty
• Effective treatment and education and deprivation and unemployment.
for parents
• Child Protection Training (for professionals)
• Supporting relatives

The overriding requirement is for sensitivity

regarding what the young person may be
going through – without making assumptions
(see page 28 on how to talk to vulnerable
young people). Interventions that help a young
person to cope with their situation are
considered to be more effective.

Research has shown that young people

gain enormous benefit from having friends
(especially ones they can confide in), time
away from the home and taking part in
‘normal’ fun activities. This can involve support
for their education including practical help
to encourage them to attend school, and Young refugees and asylum seekers are often
leisure/youth activities. Respite and emotional exposed to a large number of these factors43
support are also important as is support including a lack of educational and working
for parents, both in accessing appropriate opportunities. Such lack of opportunity can
treatment and in developing their increase boredom and exacerbate mental
parenting skills. health problems. The loneliness, lack of social
support networks and the stress of waiting
to hear whether their application has been
CHILD PROTECTION granted can add to this isolation.

If you consider a young person to be Many may also have fled from, or experienced,
in danger because of a parent’s neglect extreme situations in their home country – such
or abuse, contact the NSPCC on as persecution, torture or the death of loved
0800 800 5000 or contact Social Services. ones – and have faced a long and hazardous
For further work with young people whose journey. They may be separated from their
parents have problems with drugs, see families and have to deal with the effects
‘Journeys – when parents take drugs’ of negative publicity about asylum seekers
available from Adfam (see Useful Resources in the media. Many have inadequate housing,
on page 40-44). often overcrowded and, in the case of young
people, often in hostels also used by problematic
drug and alcohol users. Some end up homeless.

26 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference

People from newly arrived communities may Whilst there is a lack of research on levels
also not be suitably competent in English and of crime among this group, their exposure to
will most often be unaware of services available other factors (such as a need for belonging,
to them in the event that they do develop economic necessity and naivety in terms of
problems with drugs. Many will also be reluctant becoming involved in illegal activity) means
to ask for help because of cultural taboos that they may be susceptible to involvement
around drugs. As such, these young people in crime. Offending at a young age raises the
are considered to be a vulnerable group. risks of misusing drugs. For some, vulnerability
to coercion into prostitution (which has strong
Whilst the presence of a single or even links with drug use) may be a key risk.
multiple risk factors in a young person’s life
does not automatically predict problematic Some refugees have used drugs prior to their
drug use, it is generally agreed that the greater arrival in the UK. Being given drugs to control
the number of risk factors present, the greater behaviour when fighting in a conflict in their
the likelihood of drug use and subsequent home country is not uncommon. Those who
problematic use. have been imprisoned or tortured, may have
been given drugs to add to their suffering
whilst others may have begun self-medicating,
SNAPSHOT particularly for a mental health problem.
Recreational drug use also occurs, including
• Cannabis use among refugees and the use of substances such as khat or paan
asylum seekers is more common than within some communities.
use of heroin and crack cocaine43
• Estimates of the number of unaccompanied IMPROVING ACCESSIBILITY
minors living in the UK at any one time
range from 3,500 - 10,00043 Refugees are not one homogenous group.
• The majority of unaccompanied minors They can be from a wide range of nationalities,
are boys, aged between 16 and 1743 each with their own cultural heritage and
• People from BEM communities are less sensibilities and with a wide range of physical,
likely to access services than their white emotional and social needs. Work with young
counterparts people in this situation needs to be culturally
appropriate whilst aiming to alleviate problems
associated with the barriers they face. Practical
support and activities that promote inclusion

Young refugees and asylum seekers who have

a strong desire to develop their education and For information and ideas on working
build a new life for themselves appear to be with people from diverse communities, see
less vulnerable to drug use. Many are also the FRANK Action Update ‘Talking Diversity’.
reluctant to do anything that could jeopardise
their application. However, those who face
barriers to education are more at risk. Likewise,
the incidence of mental health problems
among this group, such as depression, can
add to the risks of future problems with drugs,
particularly for unaccompanied minors.

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 27


As seen from these profiles, vulnerable young people are not a
discrete group – their opinions and experiences vary enormously, and
communication needs to take account of this. Research also reveals
common differences between their lifestyles and those of their peers.
Most importantly, there are differences in attitudes towards drug misuse
and drug education.

The vast majority of vulnerable young people IN THEIR OWN WORDS41

live in socially disadvantaged areas where drug
use is widespread. They are from families that Hard statistics highlight the extent to which
have multiple problems that might include a drugs play a part in the lives of vulnerable
combination of: young people. But it is the stories that young
people tell in research interviews that give
• Poverty valuable information how their problems affect
• Parental splits or changes of partner how they relate to drugs and drug education.
• Domestic violence
• Sexual/physical abuse within the family “USING DRUGS IS NORMAL”
• Parental abuse of alcohol and/or Class A drugs
• Sickness, mental health problems or To many vulnerable young people, drug use
bereavement is a part of everyday life. They know that deals
• Imprisonment of parent(s) and/or sibling(s) are being struck in their neighbourhoods and,
• Very poor parenting skills. if they’re not taking drugs themselves, they
might know someone who is. Their parent(s)
These factors can often make them difficult and siblings may have tolerant attitudes
to reach when it comes to communicating towards drugs, and some have parents who
drug information. are problematic drug users – so they are often
well aware of how drug use can affect people
on a day-to-day basis.

Most do not think of cannabis as a drug to

be avoided, because so many of the people
around them smoke it. The only drugs they think
should be avoided are heroin and cocaine.
But some still draw a distinction between
‘smackheads’ and those people who seem
able to control their use of the drug.

"Cannabis ain't a drug. It’s natural.

It’s better than tobacco."
Looked after young person

28 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference

When it comes to using drugs, two groups have BARRIERS TO LEARNING
much less experience: young refugees and
children of problem drug users. Young refugees Young people from disadvantaged
are often focused on education and building backgrounds often have low literacy levels,
a new life, and consider drugs might endanger and this can mean that communications about
their prospects. For children of problematic drugs are less accessible to them. Many have
drug users, their parents’ lives are a powerful been excluded from school, or have truanted
reminder of the damage drug misuse can do. so, even if they are literate, they may have
missed out on formal drug education. For those
BEEN THERE, SEEN THAT who have actually started taking drugs, low
literacy and exclusion from school can put
A young person’s knowledge of drugs often support services beyond their reach.
precedes formal drugs education in school.
Some report having learned about drugs on As vulnerable young people are a diverse
the streets when they were as young as seven. group with wide-ranging needs, what works for
And it is on the streets where they think they other young people might have adverse effects
can get real information about the positive with this audience. Drug education classes at
and negative effects of drugs, so they are school can leave some feeling uncomfortable.
often scathing about what they see to be their This particularly the case for children of
school’s anti-drug message. Some claim to problematic drug users, who fear that the
be more knowledgeable than those teaching lessons might draw attention to their problems
them about drugs. and make them a target for bullying.

STARTING EARLY "They were on about drugs and I didn't

want to look at anyone in case they
Early exposure to drugs can increase were looking at me thinking 'He already
the likelihood of vulnerable young people knows about drugs because his mum
experimenting with them earlier than and dad are druggies'."
their peers. It is common for them to Son of problematic drug users
have experimented with a wider range
of substances by their teens. A HIGHER RISK

"I was brought up around drugs. It was Difficulties at home often push young people
just one of the things you did. Don’t onto the streets. Even those who do not run
know when I started… Maybe 7 or 8?" away from home spend large amounts of time
Young offender away from their families. Unfortunately, in trying
to escape their difficulties, they can add to
them as they try to combat boredom or fit
in with people they meet on the streets.
Many increase their exposure to drugs or put
themselves in a situation where drug use is
more likely.

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 29


A SOLUTION, NOT A PROBLEM "My mum used drugs before I was
even born so I grew up not knowing
For some young people, difficulties can any different. I'm now 10 and have
seem insurmountable, and drugs become been coming to STARS for nearly a year.
a solution rather than a problem. In cases Before I came to STARS I had no one
where somebody has been receptive to drug to talk to about stuff to do with drugs
education, the need for something to counter at my house. Even though my mum
negative emotions can make drugs irresistible. doesn't take drugs any more, I was still
worried that when she was stressed
"It's fine to say 'Don't do drugs' but some she’d start taking drugs again. I search
people have so much crap in their lives in the bin to see if she has used
that they use the drugs to escape." anything to take drugs like cans with
Young homeless person holes in for smoking crack. Since
coming to STARS I have been able to
talk about my worries; I had no-none
to talk to before. I couldn't even tell my
friends I didn't want anyone to know my
FRANK business. I feel that I am happy to get
on with my life and know that I don't
Although vulnerable young people are have to search the bin anymore. I think
able to appreciate the message of FRANK, STARS can teach and help children to
sometimes the fact that their living conditions understand drugs and alcohol. I have
aren’t being acknowledged can allow them drawn a picture about all of the things
to keep the campaign’s message at arm’s that I have done at STARS and how
length – “It’s not talking to me.” I feel about drugs."
John, aged 10, STARS project casestudy
Vulnerable young people can also find it
difficult to talk to an anonymous person at
the end of a phoneline, and it can be difficult
for them to believe that FRANK is confidential.
Private access to the internet may also be
a problem for young people.

Therefore, it is important to use the FRANK

message in an appropriate way that takes
into account their lifestyles and experiences.

30 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference


Young people often tend to perceive risks in a different way to adults. They may
see risks as challenging, exciting and sometimes just something to experiment
with to ‘see what happens’. By contrast, as we get older, most adults increasingly
tend to view risks in more negative terms. Given that adults and young people
can come from these different perspectives (and that young people often
feel they have been fed ‘misinformation’), young people can often mistrust
information they receive (or perceive to be) from adults. For vulnerable young
people, who may have experienced difficult situations with their parents,
people in authority or with other people generally, feelings of mistrust may
be even more highlighted. In addition, due to their relationship experiences,
their boundaries may be distorted. This makes it extremely important that
professionals make their communication approach credible, sensitive
and appropriate so that chances of engaging with young people (and
particularly the more vulnerable) are maximised. Here are some tips to help
you engage them with your communications and activities.


Work with your existing young people to learn Many young people, especially those whose
more about the particular places in your lifestyles render them more vulnerable, may
communities where young people congregate. have wider issues that they are dealing with
Involving young people in the development apart from those that surround drug use. Taking
and implementation of your activities can help a holistic approach encompasses practical
you make sure you’re on the ball regarding considerations such as accessing benefits or
current fads, trends and issues in your area as housing, financial management and general
well as adding credibility. welfare. Communicating about drugs in
complete isolation of these concerns can
GROUND RULES limit the effectiveness of your work.

Be aware of your organisation’s rules and SURPRISE

regulations and establish to what extent you
can be flexible – at least to begin with – about Most young people, vulnerable or otherwise,
things such as punctuality and curriculum. There will have all sorts of predetermined ideas
may be a myriad of issues facing vulnerable about what to expect from a youth centered
young people – once you’ve got them engaged, organisation. However, they often have more
you can start to reason with them about their innate curiosity than we sometimes imagine.
behaviour and establish appropriate ground rules Organise some really unusual events or non
that are acceptable both to you and them. drug-related activities to capture their interest.

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 31


GO TO THEM Arm your outreach workers with youth
passports – this scheme is working well in
Young people who reject traditional education French cities at the moment. Young people
or ‘slip through’ the net of social services can are given a passport which gives them
effectively be ‘invisible. Sometimes the only way discounted access to various youth services
to engage vulnerable young people is to get in the city (youth clubs, ice-rinks, cinemas
out there and find them. etc) provided they turn up regularly to your
organisation and get it stamped. This requires
KEEP IT REAL strong relationships with your local youth
services and facilities.
Make sure that your activities are appropriate
to the age, stage of development, gender, race
and culture of the young people. In particular,
make them relevant to the young people’s • Always hold private conversations
circumstances. Consider how their experiences somewhere genuinely private
may have informed their views and the way • If necessary, make a ‘do not disturb’ sign
they relate to others. Be sensitive and, especially for your door
avoid making assumptions or stereotyping. • Spend ten minutes after any private
conversation writing some notes detailing
LISTEN the key issues faced by the young person
• Don’t try to ‘speak the same language’
It’s easy to look like you’re listening, but are you but ask young people to explain slang
really picking up on the important information terms. If you don’t know that (currently!)
a young person might be trying to tell you? ‘soldiers’ and ‘dogs’ means ‘friends’
you might miss something crucial to
their situation
Exaggerating dangers, limiting discussion or
telling young people what to think are not
advisable. It can discourage development
of decision making, increase the likelihood Consider who is the best person in your team
that young people will switch off, as they feel to perform outreach duties. For example,
patronised or suspect they are not being told you may need to recruit someone from a
the whole truth. Effective communications particular ethnic community, age or gender
encourages young people to explore a range to help gain credibility with the young people
of views, to develop their own opinions and you are targeting.
challenge stereotypes.

Be clear about boundaries and issues such as

confidentiality and disclosure. It is important
that young people know exactly where they
stand with you.

32 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference

In this section, we profile some of the excellent national and local initiatives
aimed at engaging vulnerable young people.


WALPOP is a persistent adult offenders project
STARS was set up in 2002 to address the needs that actively targets the younger brothers and
of local children and young people whose sisters of drug-using offenders. Working with
parents misuse drugs and alcohol. Accepting repeat offenders and their families, many of
referrals from all sources, STARS works with whom have been involved in drug-related
children and young people on a group and crime in Walsall, WALPOP supervises offenders
individual level, assessing their priorities and in prison and visits their families in the home.
addressing the myriad issues thrown up by Recruiting seconded police and probation
substance misuse within families, including officers, the project refers offenders into local
poverty, domestic violence, prostitution, and treatment services while keeping an eye on
problems relating to parenting, school and their family situation, looking out particularly for
self-esteem. younger siblings who may not yet be involved
in drugs or crime but who are still very much at
The aim of the project is to provide a safe risk. With the help of the local Youth Offending
haven, offering respite and refuge from the Team and other youth agencies, WALPOP then
burden of living with a substance-misusing provides support and interventions for these
parent or family member. Reaching out to younger siblings aimed at reducing future drug
more than 100 young people a year, STARS misuse and criminal behaviour.
endeavours to help children deal with their
fears and get on with their lives, equipping Providing specialist in-house treatment advice
them with a greater understanding of alcohol and supervision, WALPOP endeavours to build
and drug abuse and helping them cope lasting relationships with families throughout
better with problems at home. Walsall, where 80% of crime is drug-related.
Recruiting siblings and parents into the process
Local children are transported from school of rehabilitation and crime-reduction, WALPOP’s
to the STARS project where they are offered a overall aim is to prevent impressionable and
wide range of activities, including therapeutic potentially vulnerable young people repeating
artwork and storytelling to enable them to the mistakes of their elders, thereby achieving
articulate their experiences and express their lasting change among the younger generation.
feelings. Home visits are also conducted, many
of which take in foster care situations. STARS For further information contact:
also works with children whose parents no Lyn Reed
longer abuse alcohol or drugs, but who are Tel: 07736 007 643
still living with the legacy of past problems Email:
and dependencies.

For further information contact:

Sara Mayer
Tel: 0115 942 2974

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 33

Since July 2003, Southend DAT and Southend YOT
have been involved in a joint football initiative
for 10 -18 year-olds with drug and alcohol-
related problems. Together, the two agencies
organise and sponsor a football team for local
young people who are referred to the YOT by
the Youth Justice Board Mentoring scheme.

The team, called ‘The Amigos’, provides much-

needed direction and discipline for young men
who are either repeat offenders, on licence
from custody or looked after within the care
system. Offering a sense of belonging, stability Streets and Lanes (SALs) is a Bradford-based
and self-esteem,‘The Amigos’ also opens up project that works with young women up to
routes to other mentoring services and sports- the age of 18 who are being sexually exploited,
based activities. Most importantly, however, the or who are particularly vulnerable to this type
project gives vulnerable young people an of exploitation. Employing a multi-agency
immediate incentive to stay off drugs and out approach, SALs offers age-appropriate services
of trouble, replacing the chemical highs of drug on an individual, group and drop-in basis, also
and alcohol misuse with the natural highs of providing outreach services to schools and
teamwork, exercise and achievement. With other venues. SALs seeks to assist vulnerable
individual performances being so obviously young women with their practical needs,
marred by drug and alcohol abuse, the young helping them access food, clothing and
players are compelled to kick their habits in healthcare, while also offering career advice,
order to meet the rigours of regular competitive counselling and substance abuse support.
games. And the team members have risen to
the challenge: in their first season ‘The Amigos’ The young women who access SALs’ services
won the local Division One championship, and may be homeless, involved in abusive
are currently building on this initial success. relationships or leading a life about which
their parents or carers know little or that they
"Michael has been in care since he was feel powerless to stop. Given the sensitivity of
10 and is on licence from custody. He the issues involved, the SALs team operates a
wanted to go back into custody over strict confidentiality policy, with information only
Christmas. He has spent the last four being shared with the consent and on behalf
Christmases there. We persuaded him of the young women concerned (only in
to join the football team as a exceptional circumstances will confidentiality
goalkeeper one Saturday. This gave be breached). More often than not, the young
him such a sense of self-worth that women are referred to the project by the
he complied with his order and stayed police or by other local professionals, although
out of custody." many can, and do, refer themselves.

For further information contact: For further information contact:

Peter Walsh, Substance Misuse Worker Tel: 01274 548379
Tel: 01702 608 704 Email:

34 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference

Missing in Yorkshire provides a vital service to Chance UK is a registered charity that organises
young people reported missing in the Kirklees mentoring programmes for five to eleven-year-
and Bradford Metropolitan Districts. Working olds with behavioural difficulties who are at
in partnership with West Yorkshire Police, the risk of becoming criminal offenders and/or
Kirklees Primary Care Trusts and Kirklees and problematic drug users later in life. Also offering
Bradford Social Services Departments, the support to the parents of the children it works
project’s aim is to help vulnerable children with, Chance UK delivers individually tailored
and young people keep themselves safe programmes through carefully screened and
from harm. trained volunteer mentors – all of whom are
closely supervised in their work. The charity aims
Offering short-term family work, crisis intervention, to intervene early in the lives of vulnerable
advocacy or listening/support services, Missing children and to help them and their families
in Yorkshire looks out for young people aged lay the foundations for a brighter future. The
16 and under who go missing from home or children Chance UK work with are typically
the looked-after system. Recognising that these difficult to manage and unable to concentrate
young people are in fact children in need, on their schoolwork. They often have problems
vulnerable to offending, substance misuse, making friends and getting on with adults,
exploitation and/or abuse through prostitution, having to contend with other difficulties such
Missing in Yorkshire tries to intervene and offer as inadequate parental supervision, neglect,
access to sensitive, confidential services at the poverty, and school exclusion.
earliest possible stage.
Chance UK tries to channel children’s disruptive
When a young person goes missing and is energy into projects that encourage a sense of
reported to the police, the police fax the personal achievement, self-confidence and self-
Missing in Yorkshire service, who in turn contact esteem. Each child is carefully matched with an
the parent or carer of the young person in adult mentor who helps the child bring about
question. The service arranges to visit the positive changes in his or her life. They meet once
residential unit where the young person lives – a week for a year. Children and parents report
usually about a week after they have returned. that the mentoring scheme brings about positive
Between four and six sessions are set up with long-term change in behaviour and emotional
the young person in a place where they feel development, resulting in improved concentration,
comfortable – at home, in school, or in a café. social skills and educational attainment, as well
The sessions focus on risks, keeping safe and as heightened sense of personal responsibility.
exploring the causes of going missing. Receiving Following the success of their early intervention
a sensitive response to their return, young people programme, Chance UK has been recognised
are helped to understand their own vulnerability, as a Home Office ‘Gold Star’ project.
and are empowered to make alternative
choices for a safer and more settled lifestyle. For further information contact:
Joanne Hobbs
For further information contact: Tel: 020 7281 5858
Tel: 01484 223385 Email:

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 35

It is often not until young people fall-off our ‘radar’ that we register them
as being vulnerable or hard-to-reach. This means that a well-targeted and
imaginative approach is extremely important in developing initiatives that
will be accessible, approachable and attractive to those young people
who may not generally engage with mainstream communication. We
hope that the ideas in this section will help kickstart your own thinking about
targeting vulnerable audiences in your area and tailoring your awareness
work accordingly. A set of loose sheet activities is also included in this Update
for you to use either on a one-to-one or group basis with young people.


Vulnerable young people who use drugs7 The areas directly outside corner shops which
tend to start doing so at an earlier age than stay open late into the night, 24hr garages
other young people. They may also start sexual and off-licences are often ‘muster points’
activity around the same time, raising issues for young people. They provide shelter and
about pregnancy and parenthood for them. light, scrounging opportunities for cigarettes
Girls can be in the minority in many of the and alcohol – as well as a rich source of
vulnerable groupings but their problems are entertainment. Recent research by Crime
often more complex and more serious than Concern highlighted the informal collaboration
their male counterparts. In addition, young often forged between under-aged drinkers
people from Black and ethnic minority and shopkeepers; “ you sell us booze and we’ll
(BEM) communities may also have make sure the younger kids don’t steal from
specific needs. Therefore, any activities you or wind-up your staff”. Try to find ways to
you develop should be sensitive to different get your FRANK materials on to the counters
gender experiences and take account of these shops.
of cultural diversity.


To engage young people effectively, you

may find that getting a group of young
people involved in both the development
and implementation of a project can help
maximise your chances of success. See
‘FRANK Recruits’ in the Ideas for Action
section of the FRANK Action Update
‘Youth Trends and Tribes’ for tips
on consulting with young people.

36 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference


During the summer months, young people One for the girls! Gather up a good stock
in rural environments often seek out areas on of hair and nail products and braiding/plaiting
the banks of rivers and lakes (not to mention kit. Charge reasonable amounts for people to
beaches) to congregate. Hanging swings from have nail art, weaves and even henna tattoos.
trees and jumping off bridges are among the Remember that young people take a lot of
boredom-relieving tactics they might employ. notice of their peers, particularly in the style
Think of activities that involve water during the stakes. Make sure you recruit young people
summer and organise a FRANK-sponsored: as your ‘staff’ to engage your clients in
conversation and tell them all about other
• Raft building competition FRANK activities.
• Canoeing trip
• Surf-school trip
Karaoke machines are easy to hire and
often come with a friendly operator.
Whenever you organise an event, particularly There’s no reason not to set them up outside.
one that involves water or outdoor activity, Remember to take some plastic sheeting
make sure that you take the necessary health in case of problems with the weather. Get
and safety precautions. Visit the Health and permission from event organisers – as you
Safety Executive’s website at will draw a crowd and be making noise, they
for advice. might want you to set-up somewhere specific.
Give prizes to the best performers, or create
a panel of judges and film your own version

Ethnic communities often have a vibrant market

culture, usually taking place at weekends.
Find out where your local markets, car boot FRANKSELECTA!
sales and country fayres are held and think
of imaginative ways to run a FRANK stall. Vulnerable young people often have
This is a good way to disperse information difficulties finding their way through the
to different generations and different ethnic dilemmas that they face, and find decision
minority groups. Try not to simply set-up a stall making tricky. Use the FRANKSelecta! tool in
giving out leaflets: work with a group of young this Update to facilitate discussions on how
people to come up with a product or game. they feel about different drug scenarios.
Or try to make as much money as you can as The tool has a potential 1,000 permutations
part of a fundraising initiative – the proceeds of different dilemmas to choose from and
of which can be put towards a facility or social its random nature means some could end
inclusion activity for young people in the area. up being quite bizarre – making your ‘moral
dilemma’ discussion more fun and less

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 37

• Local businesses will often donate prizes
You don’t need a beach to have a beach for a raffle or competition, so allow plenty
party, you just need a swimming pool or a of time to approach them
space that you can decorate to give it a • A programme can be a good way of
beach party theme. You could enlist the help raising funds. Sell advertising space and
of young people to paint scenery and make sell the programme in advance of the
props. Add a band or a disco and with a event to act as an entrance ticket
dance area and chill-out zone you have the • Keep some helpers in reserve on the day.
makings of a fabulous event. Get aspiring A stall holder might not be able to attend
young DJs to bring their decks along or a steel so your reserve team will need to leap into
band can be a very effective music source the action so that the stall can still run
which conjures up that tropical feeling and • A change float is essential
adds to the pool party atmosphere. You could
also set up health education stalls or hold mini
sports tournaments, reinforcing the message FRANK OSCARS
of natural highs and healthy living.
Suggest that your group of young people
organise their own Award Ceremony. This often
works well either at the end of a term or period
of work and is a good excuse for a party!
Get the group to suggest different qualities
in each other e.g.‘best sense of humour’,‘best
listener’, best dancer’. Make sure everyone’s
talent is recognised. Making an acceptance
speech takes a lot of bottle, but can be a real
confidence booster and help with issues of self-
esteem. Other things you could consider:

• The award, a certificate or perhaps they

could make each other a trophy
• A red carpet
• A photographer
• Nicely designed invites for parents, carers,
friends and support workers
• Normal dress (young people love an
opportunity to dress up but be sensitive to
situations where money would be an issue)
• Some entertainment – perhaps a
• A local celebrity
• Food and drink
• FRANK flyers and information

See the loose sheet ‘Esteeming Ahead’

for more ideas on self-esteem activities.

38 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference

FRANK will be developing support for
The mentoring of vulnerable young people, mentors as part of the campaign’s focus
particularly those who have offended or are for 2005-6. In the meantime, if you'd like to
likely to offend is a fairly recent development find out more about mentoring, here are
that has followed a trend set in the USA. It is some links to organisations who may be
now a fast-growing phenomenon within the able to provide support and help.
voluntary sector of the UK.
In instances where parents are either Campaign to recruit volunteers to help
unavailable or unable to provide responsible young people in danger of turning to crime.
guidance for their children, mentors can 0845 601 4008 (24 hour line)
play a critical role. The lack of appropriate
adult role models is thought to be one of
the factors influencing those who end up SOVA
in the youth justice system. Mentors can The leading national volunteer mentoring
fulfil this role, demonstrating an example organisation working in the Criminal Justice
of positive, acceptable behaviour. System in England and Wales.
0114 270 3702
If your organisation has (or is thinking of
developing) a mentoring programme, try
to ensure that mentors are aware of the MENTORING AND BEFRIENDING FOUNDATION
issues around drugs that young people Aims to promote the development of
may be facing and the support and advice mentoring, offer advice and support to
they can get from FRANK. those wishing to set up or develop mentoring
0161 787 8600

FRANK has lots of activities that you can

use or adapt with young people. Download
other FRANK Action Updates or Activity
Sheets from or use
the More FRANK order form in this pack.

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 39

FRANK has a wide range of materials on a Easy Read Drug Pack
variety of specific subject areas as well as Information on drugs, the law, basic first aid,
posters, postcards and ambient media items. and drugs and sex for people with learning
For details log on to to difficulties or low literacy levels.
download or order resources and literature or
use the More FRANK order form in this pack. Drugs – the facts
You may find the following of particular relevance Drug information for 11-14’s and vulnerable
to your work with vulnerable young people: young people. Includes information on volatile
substances, alcohol and tobacco.
The Score
Aimed at 15-18’s and vulnerable young people.
Includes advice on harm minimisation.

Talk about cannabis

Personal testimonies from young people.

Parents’ guide to drugs and alcohol

We Are Family Encouraging conversations between
Information and advice on family issues parents/carers and their children about drugs
and activities for working with parents
and their children.


More resources are in the pipeline which
will reinforce the new direction of FRANK.
An additional leaflet on harm minimisation
and treatment and young people’s services
Cannabis will be available, covering: recreational drug
The law, fact sheets and tips for giving up. use, poly drug use, how to recognise the
signs, what to do in an emergency, available
treatments and how to access them.

Details of publication dates will be advised

through the campaign updates and featured

Youth Trends and Tribes

An insight into youth culture and how
to communicate with young people.

40 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference

Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England Homelessness and drugs: managing incidents.
Available from the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit. Good Practice Guide
Download from Drugscope 2000
misuse/index.asp or tel 020 7276 1881 Home and Dry? Homelessness and
to order hard copies. Substance Use
Crisis 2002
All in a day’s work: a guide to good practice
in day centres working with homeless people. Journeys - When Parents Take Drugs
Campaign for the Homeless and Rootless, Adfam, 2004
Homeless Link 1997
Let’s Get Real: Communicating with
Better Education, better futures. Research, the public about drugs
practice and the views of young people Home Office 2001
in public care
Barnardo’s 2001 Making Partnerships Work – A study of
partnership-working in The Prince’s Trust
Drug prevention with vulnerable young and a practical guide to building and
people: A review maintaining effective partnerships
Home Office Drugs Analysis and Research The Prince’s Trust 2005
Unit 2005
Mentoring and Young People –
Every Child Matters: Change for Children A literature review
A series of publications within the Every Child The SCRE Centre 2003
Matters Strategy from DfES (published 2004)
including: MORI Youth Survey
• Change for Children A survey of young people, both in and out
• Change for Children: young people and drugs of school, that explores the prevalence of
• Change for Children in Health Services offending among young people, gauges
• Change for Children in Schools any links between truancy and offending,
• Change for Children in Social Care investigates alcohol and drug taking behaviour,
• Change for Children in the Criminal assesses young people's ethics and fears and
Justice System measures the proportion who have been
Download or order from victims of crime. Download from the youth justice board site

Hidden Harm – responding to the needs Room for Improvement, A manifesto

of children of problematic drug users for Children
Home Office & Advisory Council on the Save the Children, Barnardo’s, The Children’s
Misuse of Drugs 2003 Society, NCH, NSPCC (2004)

Homelessness and Drugs: access Safeguarding Children involved in Prostitution -

to drug treatment GUIDANCE REVIEW
Drugscope 2001 Department of Health 2001

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 41

Substance use by young offenders: the ORGANISATIONS
impact of the normalisation of drug use
in the early years of the 21st century ADFAM
Home Office Research 2003 Information and advice for families affected
by drugs and alcohol including an online
Throughcare and aftercare: approaches database of local support groups. Also offers
and promising practice in service delivery publications, literature and videos.
for clients released from prison or leaving 020 7928 8898
residential rehabilitation
Home Office online report 2005
UK charity supporting vulnerable children
The Mental Health Needs of Homeless and their families.
Young People – Bright Futures: Working 020 8550 8822
with Vulnerable Young People
The Mental Health Foundation 2002
Understanding problem drug use among EXPLOITATION)
young people accessing drug services: Works with young people who are at risk
a multivariate approach using statistical of sexual exploitation or who are being
modelling techniques sexually exploited.
Home Office online report 2004 0117 934 9726
Updated Drug Strategy
Outlines the Government’s strategy for CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE’S UNIT (CYPU)
addressing drug-related issues including London-based organisation, part of the Mayor’s
education, treatment and controlling supply. office, dealing with issues relating to children,
Download from childcare and play.
What works?
Series of reports from Barnardo’s including: CHILDREN ARE UNBEATABLE!
What Works for Troubled Children? (1999) Alliance campaigning on children’s legal
What Works in Child Protection? (2000) protection against being hit. Promotes positive,
What works in child sexual exploitation: non-violent discipline.
sharing and learning (Barnardo’s and 020 7713 0569
Stade Advies 2004)
What works in education pupils with social,
emotional and behavioural difficulties outside DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION AND SKILLS
mainstream classrooms? (2001) Education and skills information and policy for
children, young people and adults. Established
with the purpose of creating opportunity,
releasing potential and achieving excellence
for all.
0870 000 2288 (young people’s portal)

42 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference

Provides health and social care policy, Provides a range of services to meet the
guidance and publications. health, welfare and legal needs of drug users
0207 210 4850 and those who live and work with them.
Publications order line 08701 555 455 0845 4500 215


UK centre of expertise on drugs. Works with and for children to help them
020 7928 1211 deal with life challenges. 020 7841 4400
Works with ex-offenders, disadvantaged TURNING POINT
people and deprived communities. Works with individuals and communities
020 7582 6500 on drug and alcohol misuse, mental health and learning disability issues.
020 7702 2300
Undertakes research, evaluation and
development projects to influence policy
for children and young people.
020 7843 6000

Helps children at risk or in care, vulnerable
young people and families under pressure.
08457 626 579

UK charity specialising in child protection
and the prevention of cruelty to children.
020 7825 250 (confidential
online advice for teenagers)

Provider of (and gateway to) a range
of tailored services for under-supported
young people.
01959 578 200

FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference 43

1 Drug Use among vulnerable groups of young people: 40 Hidden Harm: Responding to the needs of children of problem
findings from the Crime and Justice Survey 2003 drug users, Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs
2 Every Child Matters – young people and drugs 2005 41 FRANK research with Vulnerable Young People: Front Line
3 FRANK Caller Satisfaction Survey 2005 Research February 2005
4 Drug Harm Index 42 Barnardos
5 Health Advisory Report into young people’s drug use 1996 43 Young Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Greater London:
6 MORI Youth Survey 2004 – MORI 2004 for the Youth Justice Board vulnerability to problematic drug use: University of Central
7 Youth Justice Board Annual Review 2003 Lancashire 2004.
8 Vulnerable Young People and Drugs – Opportunities to tackle
inequalities (Drugscope)
9 Home Office Research Study 261, Substance use by young
offenders: the impact of the normalisation of drug use in the
early years of the 21st century, February 2003 And don’t forget for
10 DfES information and advice on drugs.
11 LEA Absence data Spring 2005 DfES
12 Social Exclusion Unit
13 Joseph Rowntree Foundation
14 ONS Social Trends 2005
16 Provision and Support for Traveller Children: Ofsted 2003 ©
Roy Peters / – page 1, 4, 35, 36
17 Home Office Research Study 228, At the margins: drug use ©
Paul Carter / – page 3 (top), 30
by vulnerable young people in the 1998/99 Youth Lifestyles ©
Paul Box / – page 3, 5, 23, 29, 37, 39 (top)
Survey, Home Office, November 2001 ©
Calvin Hewitt / – page 7
18 Exclusion from School, the Public Cost: Parsons 1996 ©
Duncan Phillips / – page 9, 13, 21, 25, 39
19 Better Education Better Futures. Research, practice and the
John Harris / – page 10
views of young people in care; Sonia Jackson and Darshan
Sachdev, Barnardos 2001 Joanne O’Brien / – page 11, 21 (top)
20 Statistics of Education: Outcome Indicators for Looked Paul Herrmann / – page 18, 34
after Children DfES September 2004 Gerry McCann / – page 22, 24
21 Prince’s Trust 2002 ©
Jess Hurd / – page 26, 27
22 Careleavers 2002-3 England: DfES ©
Philip Wolmuth / – page 41, 43
23 Barnardos 2004
24 ONS 2003 – page 15, 17, 31
25 Room for Improvement: a manifesto for children NSPCC,
Barnardo’s, The Children’s Society, NCH and Save the
Children 2005
26 The Health Needs of young people leaving care;
Broad and Saunders, Voice for the Child in Care 2004
27 Meltzer et al 200, Williams et al 2001
28 Big Step Partnership 2002
29 One problem among many: drug use among care leavers
in transition to independent living. Home Office Research
Study 190 2002
30 A Better Education for Children in Care: Social Exclusion Unit 2003
31 Home Office, Paying the Price, Government Consultation on
Prostitution, 2004
32 Home Office Findings: Vulnerability and involvement in drug
use and sex work 2000
33 Barnardos
34 Centrepoint, Young People Homeless Index, 2003
35 Home Office Research Study 228, At the margins: drug use
by vulnerable young people in the 1998/99 Youth Lifestyles
Survey, Home Office, November 2001
36 Children’s Society 1999
37 NCH 2001
38 The Mental Health Needs of Homeless Young People,
Mental Health Foundation 2002
39 CRISIS: Fountain and Howes 2002

44 FRANK Action Update – Vunerable Young People – making the difference