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ACTIVITY

MORAL DILEMMAS
Why do it? As stimulus for entry into a wider discussion

Group or individual activity Group

What you’ll need Pens, paper, flipchart

How long will it take? 40 minutes (minimum)

You know the group you work with better than anyone. Make sure that this activity is appropriate for
their age and ability before they start.

THE BRIEF:

Use this exercise as a fun, relaxed way to warm-up a group and then to ease them into thinking
about some of the more serious issues surrounding substance misuse or any other lifestyle topic
you may want to explore. This is a good one for firing up lethargic groups, but it’s not for the faint
hearted as it can get a bit gross!

Other Suggested Activities:


• Use the results of this exercise to create an amusing quiz for use in other media,
eg websites, posters, magazines or newsletters

Regardless of the size of your group, split them down into pairs. Send them off to think up, and
write down the worst possible choices they could imagine being faced with. For example:

WOULD YOU RATHER... OR...


Have a metre long beard a metre long eyebrows?

Blow snot all over your date pass wind loudly in front of your date?

Catch your parents ‘at it’ have them catch you ‘at it’?

Every time you enter a room have the the Crazy Frog played?
Cheeky Girls played

Have three tiny eyes have one MASSIVE eye?

Not shower or bath for a month drink half a pint of pee?


(you can’t tell people why)

Go out with a pensioner for a month eat a full plate of cat casserole?
(you have to kiss them every day)

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You get the general idea! When everyone has got their worst and most testing moral dilemmas
ready, you could either:

• Put two pairs together and get them to challenge each other. (Remember, when playing
‘would you rather’ you absolutely have to pick one or the other. Claiming “I wouldn’t do
either” simply is not allowed!)

• Read them out as a group, recording the best ones on a white board or flipchart, and get
the young people to vote on the most impossible choice. Give the winner a prize for being
horribly creative.

Once the vile mayhem has subsided, turn the groups attention to drugs, alcohol or lifestyle
issues and ask them to do the exercise again but this time using drugs dilemmas as a theme
for example:

WOULD YOU RATHER... OR...


Have breath that smells of alcohol for a year have a boy/girlfriend whose breath smelt
of alcohol for a year?

Spend a night in a prison cell be a policeman/woman for a day?

Tell your younger brother or sister everything let a parent tell your younger brother or sister
you think you know about drugs everything they think they know about drugs?

Have an hour of hallucinations every day have an hour of paranoia every day for
for a week a week?

Sweat all the time shiver all the time?

Choose the exact time and manner of never know?


your death

Think you dance brilliantly but actually look think you look ridiculous dancing but actually
ridiculous to everyone else look brilliant to everyone else?

This time use the discussion time to explore some of the issues raised by the moral dilemmas.
This can lead to boisterous debates, which are often well worth keeping a video record of.

See the activity ‘Directors’ Cuts’ in the FRANK Action Update ‘Youth Trends and Tribes’
for tips on filming

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THURSDAY

ACTIVITY
1
ST

SEPTEMBER

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES


Why do it? To reinforce the value of each day and promote self-awareness

Group or individual activity Group

What you’ll need Creative materials, recording equipment if possible

How long will it take? At least a day

You know the group you work with better than anyone. Make sure that this activity is appropriate for
their age and ability before they start.

THE BRIEF:

Most of us have little or no comprehension of how many days we actually have left to live
(assuming an incident-free existence)! We often also have a warped sense of how the rich
and famous – and the “down and outs”– might spend their days. Boredom can be a symptom
of not valuing the time we have - this exercise is intended to explore these issues further.

JUST HOW VALUABLE IS A DAY?

Set the young people the task of recording a day of their life. Some may be happy to write a
diary or create an illustrated journal. However, to make sure that you include all levels of literacy
and tap into media that your group is inspired by, explore some more exciting ways with them
through which they could record their day.

Think about disposable and digital cameras, video, dictaphones, CD Roms, an email diary
(see the loose sheet ‘Esteeming Ahead’ for information on blogs), storyboarding etc. Whatever
their chosen medium, send them off to record their day, or a few days. They should consider
the following:

• What time are they up and about?


• What do they eat?
• How are they affected by the people they have to live with?
• Where do they go?
• What random thoughts cross their minds?
• How does the day’s weather affect them?
• Who do they encounter during the day?
• What do they do at night?

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Use the material they gather to present their day as a short film, a gallery of annotated stills (or
photo-story), a short story, cartoon etc. In developing a piece of creative work about how a day
is spent, they might want to consider some of the following:

How many days have we lived so far?


Is every day the same?
How many are left?

Research a celebrity’s average day –


What choices do we have each morning? how do they spend their time? How did they
spend their days when they were your age?

Research what a typical day could be


What’s been the best day of your life so far?
like for someone with a drug problem
What made it so great?
or for a dealer.

How do drugs affect the way you


What is boredom? What is excitement?
spend your day?

Use this process to help increase a group’s understanding of each other. If they choose to
photograph or film their day, they could do it in pairs. This is a useful time to promote cross-
cultural friendships and for young people from different backgrounds to spend time with each
other – a bit like a mini exchange scheme. This also allows them to present each other’s day
if they choose to.

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ACTIVITY

ESTEEMING AHEAD!
Why do it? To explore issues around/help boost self-esteem

Group or individual activity Group or individual

What you’ll need Various (see individual activities)

You know the group you work with better than anyone. Make sure that this activity is appropriate for
their age and ability before they start.

THE BRIEF:

Low self-esteem can be an issue for many adolescents. Misuse of drugs and/or alcohol is often
a result of low self opinion or the desire to boost one’s confidence among peers. Here are three
exercises – appropriate for different character types – to help raise a young person’s opinion of
themselves.

LET YOUR FINGERS DO THE TALKING

What you’ll need Access to a computer with internet access

How long will it take? Ongoing activity

The power of the on-line community is often overlooked as a tool for building self-confidence.
Ask each member of your group to identify, something they think they’re good at (or interested
in being good at). It could be mixing records, writing stories, dancing, mending mountain bikes,
graffiti etc. Or something less tangible such as telling jokes, helping others, inventing things,
arguing or talking about cars.

Next, spend some time online finding a suitable discussion board, weblog site (aka a blog) or
forum for the young person to sign-up to and start contributing. Try to set a realistic goal such as
‘one submission a day for a week’ and print out each interaction. Before long the young person
should be communicating with like-minded peers. This can be especially rewarding for more
introverted characters.

WHAT IS A BLOG?
A ‘blog’ is short for weblog – a personal journal published on the Web. Blogs frequently include
reflections, opinions on the Internet and social issues, and can provide a "log" of the author's
favourite web links. Usually they are presented in a journal style with a new entry each day.

SURFING THE NET SAFELY


Millions of people discover new friends and nurture new interests online every day – vulnerable
young people often just lack the access and the confidence to start. Most websites are well-
managed and monitored. However, safety is paramount. Make sure that you and the young
people you work with are aware of the safety guidelines. See www.thinkuknow.co.uk.

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LOOKING THE PART
What you’ll need Camera (disposable, digital or Polaroid), space to move around

How long will it take? Can be a 1 hour session if using a Polaroid or digital camera or can be
developed into a longer-term project if required

What does confidence look like? Use a camera to create ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of your group.
In pairs or small groups take it in turns to act shy, introverted or insecure, take a picture of each
person in those poses. Then try the opposite, the key points for looking confident are shoulders
pulled back, head lifted up, weight distributed evenly, focused slow breathing and releasing the
tension in the muscles

Now photograph everyone’s confident pose. Develop the pictures and distribute them,
vulnerable young people often don’t have nice pictures of themselves or their friends.
Get additional copies of the pictures and create a ‘Before & After’ gallery to remind group
members how confident they are capable of looking.

Remember, our bodies are influenced by our minds and vice versa. If you mimic the body
language of self-confidence often enough, the mind will start to reflect the body. Make a habit
of occasionally having a quick blast of confident posing by incorporating it into group warm-up
sessions or as a closing exercise.

MEMOIRS
What you’ll need Various props eg camera, writing equipment, rehearsal space
depending on medium used

How long will it take? Two sessions

Reminding people of their potential can help nurture self-esteem. Why wait until you’re old and
grey to tell the world how great you were! Encourage young people to imagine being much
older and looking back at their achievements through:

• A creative writing session (or write your autobiography)


• A short ‘mockumentary’ report on video
• A piece of drama
• Lyrics

They should consider things such as where did they live? Did they have children? Did they
marry? What were they proud of? Where did they acquire their skills? What did they leave
behind as their legacy?

Give the brief in the first session and give them time to make a start. They should then return
to the second session with their ‘memoirs’

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ACTIVITY

LOOKING AFTER YOU/


LOOKING OUT FOR OTHERS
Why do it? To reduce isolation and promote supportive relationships

Group or individual activity Individuals and pairs

What you’ll need Private space for discussion, camera, potential budget for buddy ‘items’

How long will it take? Ongoing project

You know the group you work with better than anyone. Make sure that this activity is appropriate for
their age and ability before they start.

THE BRIEF:

For most vulnerable young people, their greatest source of support against drugs, strangers,
violence etc will be each other. However officially well-supported they might be, they will spend
more time in the company of their peers than with anyone else. This exercise is designed to
recognise the value of their best friends and to empower them to maximise the support they
offer to their peers.

THE BUDDY SYSTEM

Usually, a buddy system involves one person being a slightly older ‘mentor’ for a younger friend.
In the context of young people leading chaotic lives it can often be beneficial if the buddies
are at a similar life-stage so that they can be of mutual support to each other.

Whilst it is important that the ‘buddies’ have space to develop their relationship with each other,
make sure that you offer them ongoing guidance and support, to help their buddy partnership
progress positively. Follow the three steps overleaf. Here some tips for setting up successful
buddying partnerships.

BUDDY ITEMS

If you have the budget, it can be worthwhile to source some buddy ‘items’ as small keepsakes
and mementos. Wallets are particularly useful – many young people do not have a wallet
for bus tickets, money, phonecards or for storing useful numbers or personal items. It’s easy
to forget how grown up they can make you feel. Try to source some inexpensive ones – one
for each buddy – and have the FRANK details printed inside. Or include one of the FRANK
business credit cards so that they have the FRANK number to hand if they need it. Credit
cards can be ordered from www.drugs.gov.uk/frank or by using the More FRANK order form
at the back of this Update.

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TIPS FOR SETTING UP SUCCESSFUL BUDDYING PARTNERSHIPS

STEP 1
WHO’S YOUR BUDDY?
Spend some one-to-one time with your young people identifying who they spend the most
amount of time with. Girls tend to have a more clearly defined ‘best friend’ – whereas boys
tend to ‘hunt in packs’ and often take some coaching to narrow it down.

Help them list the different ways they support each other; lending money, sorting out fights,
chatting people up, sharing a place to stay, going to the hospital together etc. Talk about the
best and the worst times they’ve shared. Explore times when they’ve let each other down.

STEP 2
MAKE A PACT
When you’ve paired them up, use a Polaroid or disposable camera to take a couple of pictures
of them together. Give each buddy a photo. Photography is a luxury many of them cannot
afford – photos of friends will become cherished items.

They should then make a pact with each other. This is something they should agree in private
and both sign. Examples of pacts could be:

• I promise to text you once a day


• I promise to try to see you every weekend
• I’m looking out for you
• I promise to listen if you need to talk
• I promise to tell you the truth

STEP 3
PROMOTE BUDDYISM
Peer mentoring schemes work best when they raise the social status of the young people
involved. Think of creative ways to promote your scheme and, more importantly, those who
excel at supporting each other. Here are a few ideas:

• Work with your teams to create a brand for your buddy scheme, use it on t-shirts, stickers,
pin badges and posters
• Offer discounts for Buddies who turn up together at local events
• Organise special events for Buddies
• Find ways to reward Buddies who do things to help each other
• Perhaps try to pair-up teams of Buddies into foursomes! – remember this is about safety in numbers

Whatever they decide, it should be something that they are committed to doing for each other.
Encourage them to try and be specific so that they manage their expectations. Different people
can have very different ideas of what ‘being there for you’ entails so it’s important that each
buddy knows what they are expected to do for their partner and what they can expect in return.

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ACTIVITY

THE FRANKBee FLYER


Why do it? To promote teamwork and relationship building

Group or individual activity Group

What you’ll need A frisbee (or foam ball), space

How long will it take? 15 minutes minimum

You know the group you work with better than anyone. Make sure that this activity is appropriate for
their age and ability before they start.

THE BRIEF:

Group games promote a physical bond between individuals, can increase self-confidence,
promote eye contact, lower barriers and help make the most of pent up energy. Use a
FRANKBee* to play these team-building games and foster positive relationships within the group.

*Creating a FRANKbee – Use a nylon Frisbee (or a soft, foam ball) and brand it with the
FRANK logo and/or helpline number (FRANK stickers are available to order). Make sure that
whatever you use won’t inflict harm.

Other Suggested Activities:


• Customised ‘frisbees’ can cost less than a pound to produce, are popular with girls and boys,
and are a good way to get your brand/project seen by young people. Why not create your
own and give them out as presents or prizes to young people in your area?
• Ultimate Frisbee and Disc Golf are both fast-growing sports and are becoming increasingly
popular with young people. For more information, see: www.ukultimate.com,
www.discgolf.co.uk or www.funandgames.org/games_activeteam.htm

WALKABOUT

This exercise is a simple warm-up for group activity. Get the group spread out – everyone
should be at least five metres apart – and get them to start walking around. Stand among
the group and start to introduce the following commands: “change direction!”, “stop!”,
“start!”, “high five”.

Make up instructions of your own too. Once everyone is moving, shout “FRANKbee!” and
throw the disc into the air above them. Whoever catches it becomes the caller and directs
the group. When you shout “FRANKbee!” they must toss it to a new caller.

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QUESTION TIME

A fun way of helping the group to learn about each other. Ask the group to stand in a circle.
Whoever starts with possession of the FRANKbee, throws to someone and simultaneously asks
them a question: “what’s your name?”, “where do you live?”, “are you single?”, “what’s your
favourite film?”

Whoever catches it has to answer the question. If they drop it (either accidentally or deliberately),
the thrower has to answer his or her own question. This will help to prevent the caller from
putting the catcher ‘on the spot’. Each person can only use the same question once.

GROWING TOGETHER

To help foster a sense of teamwork in a circle, start throwing the disc between the group.
The aim of the game is to co-operate to ‘grow’ the circle as large as possible. This will require
accurate throwing, concentration and team co-ordination.

The rules:
Catch it – you take one step backwards
Throw it and it’s not caught – you take one step forwards
Drop it once – you have to kneel
Drop it while kneeling – you’re out!
Catch it while kneeling – you return to standing

When the last two players are left standing, pace out the distance between them, this is your
group’s score. The group should aim to get the highest possible score they can.

PROTECT THE PRESIDENT

Great for getting boisterous groups to work together. Players stand in a large circle with two
people in the middle. One person in the middle is the President, the other is the Bodyguard.
Those standing in the circle should try to strike the president with the FRANKbee. The
bodyguard may do anything to block the disc with their body: jump, squat, dive, etc.

If the disc touches the President at any time on any part of the body, the person who threw
the disc then becomes the Bodyguard, the Bodyguard becomes the President, and the
President rejoins the circle.

This game can become exciting and fast-paced as, from the moment the President is struck,
the new President is vulnerable because the transition is instantaneous. The new Bodyguard
must be fast at getting into the circle to defend the new President.

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ACTIVITY

FRANK SOLUTIONS
Why do it? To encourage problem solving and decision making

Group or individual activity Group or individual

What you’ll need Writing/drawing materials

How long will it take? 30 minutes minimum

You know the group you work with better than anyone. Make sure that this activity is appropriate for
their age and ability before they start.

THE BRIEF:

Vulnerable young people can often be overwhelmed by a myriad of problems. This can include
anything from language barriers, lack of funds, not enough sleep or a poor diet to serious drug
use, alcohol misuse or abuse issues. It can be difficult to get young people to believe that, with
the right approach, they can have the ability to analyse their problems and find common-sense
ways to solve them. In fact, many may feel they don’t have any options to consider at all.
Problems can be easier to deal with if they are broken down into manageable ‘chunks’ before
making a decision. Here are six basic steps to using a piecemeal approach to solving a problem.

STEP1 STEP4 STEP5


What is the problem? Make the Decision
State the problem and, if decision into action
there's a conflict, the opposing Choose a solution to try. Put your decision to the
views. For example: The problem Pick one or two based on test. In advance, talk
might be.“I can’t get onto any the decisions made in through the possible
college courses at all”. The Step 3. Think about outcomes. What obstacles
conflicting view might be “your why you selected can you anticipate?
level of literacy needs to these. What help can you
improve before you’ll get
expect?
into college”. STEP3
Good points/ STEP6
bad points How did it go?
STEP2
What can be Analyse the merits Did it work? How?
done? of the potential What changes would
solutions. What are the you make to help the
Brainstorm as many
pros and cons of solution work better?
solutions as possible,
each one? What would you try
without judging which
ones are better next time?
than others.

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Suggested Activities:
Help young people to adopt this approach by practising it using some of the exercises below.
It might be useful to create some A4 sheets with six blank boxes, each titled with the steps
detailed overleaf.

THE PROBLEM "BANK"

Give everyone some paper or card to write down a problem. To avoid difficulties with
confidentiality and disclosure, ask the group to write some imagined problems too.

• I find it hard to sleep in the house I’m staying at


• I drink a lot and I keep getting into fights
• I want to drive a tank but I don’t know how
• I really fancy my teacher
• I think I might be pregnant

Collect the cards and re-distribute them to the group. Give them all the A4 sheets and let
them work through the six boxes (in pairs or individually). Re-convene and ask people to read
their ‘process’ out to the group, ask other group members to make new suggestions. Problems
are not always straightforward and so it can be useful to explore the dilemma by asking a
series of yes/no questions to establish more information about the circumstances. They could
then create a flowchart illustrating their decision-making process.

THE ‘PROBLEM BUSTER’

On large sheets of paper, draw a machine into which you can feed a problem. It should have
the six processes illustrated. This can be used as a wall-chart or poster to highlight effective
problem solving. The act of drawing it out will help to reinforce it as a logical process.

CELEBRITY PROBLEMS

Remind the young people that everyone – no matter who they are, or how successful they
might appear – has issues and problems that may trouble them. A good way to reinforce
this is to get some celebrity gossip magazines and for each of them to adopt a celebrity
persona. In pairs (or individually) ask the young people to try to figure out problems their
character might face. They can express these to the group as a piece of drama, a sob
story, or they could create masks with celebrity faces and wear them when presenting
their ‘problems’.

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ACTIVITY

KNOW YOUR HERD


– How does your “species” behave?
Why do it? To create understanding around friendships

Group or individual activity Group

What you’ll need Discussion space

How long will it take? 20 minutes

You know the group you work with better than anyone. Make sure that this activity is appropriate for
their age and ability before they start.

THE BRIEF:

This is an exercise to help young people (especially slightly younger groups) to explore the
decisions we all make when choosing our friends. Understanding some of our more animal
behaviours can be a fun way to look objectively at how we appear to others, and how we
affect our community.

Explore some of the questions overleaf in whichever medium is most appropriate for the group.
You could simply use the prompts as a basis for a whole group discussion. Or divide the group
into pairs and distribute the cards between them to encourage them to interact with each
other one-to-one.

Throughout the discussion, encourage them to make connections to their own behaviours and
friendships. They could write their ideas down, draw or make a collage using pictures from
nature magazines and other items (eg leaves, string, food wrappers, their own photos etc).

Other Suggested Activities:


• Encourage the group to create a nature program about themselves and their friends.
Use a video camera to film your group socialising, feeding, playing, play-fighting maybe
even flirting and dating
• Create a cartoon strip
• Use drama or mime by getting the young people to ‘act out’ the animal behaviours and
get the rest of the group to guess
• Create masks and animal costumes and develop a short play around animal behaviour

See the activity sheets ‘FRANK on Film’ and ‘Directors Cuts’ in the Frank Action Update ‘Youth
Trends and Tribes’ for tips on shooting film.

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DISCUSSION CARDS

What do all animals need when


How are humans like animals?
they are growing up?

What animals do you and your friends


When is it good to be part of a herd or flock?
sometimes behave like?

When is it good to do something alone? How do you play?

Why are some people more powerful


How do you hunt?
than others?

What have you learnt from older people


When will you leave the nest?
in your species?

How are humans different from animals? What can a human do that an animal can’t?

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FACTS

DRUGS – THE LAW

Because of their life circumstances, some vulnerable young people may


have significant experience and/or knowledge of drugs – whether first
or second-hand. There are some circumstances where use of an illegal
drug may be legal. Also, some commonly misused drugs are not covered
by legislation. In addition, there are some exceptional circumstances
where use of an illegal drug may actually be legitimate or other commonly
misused drugs that are not covered by legislation. It can be useful to be
aware of these distinctions, particularly when dealing with young people
(especially those whose parents are problematic drug users or those
who are in treatment) whose lifestyles may bring them into contact
with these situations. Two main statutes regulate drugs in the UK:

THE MEDICINES ACT 1968 – covers the manufacture and supply of medicinal products
along with special licences for prescribing or research purposes.

THE MISUSE OF DRUGS ACT (MDA) 1971 – covers ‘controlled’ drugs and is intended to
prevent their non-medical use. The Act also prohibits unlawful possession and to enforce this,
police have special powers to stop, detain and search people on ‘reasonable suspicion’ that
they are in possession of a controlled drug. The MDA divides drugs into three classes according
to levels of harm, Class A being the most harmful:

CLASS A – Includes cocaine and crack cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, LSD, methadone, raw
(since July 2005) or processed magic mushrooms and any Class B drug that is injected.
CLASS B – Includes amphetamines, barbiturates and codeine.
CLASS C – Includes cannabis (since January 2004), benzodiazepines, anabolic steroids,
GHB and minor tranquillisers without a prescription.

Offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 include:


• Possession of a controlled drug
• Possession with intent to supply to another person
• Production, cultivation or manufacture of controlled drugs
• Supplying another person with a controlled drug
• Offering to supply another person with a controlled drug
• Import or export of controlled drugs
• Allowing premises you occupy or manage to be used for the consumption of certain
controlled drugs or supply or production of any controlled drug

Supply doesn’t need to involve the exchange of money, therefore giving controlled drugs
to friends is classed as supply.

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EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES

There are some circumstances where possession or use is NOT illegal. Certain controlled
drugs – such as amphetamines, barbiturates, methadone, minor tranquillisers and heroin –
can occasionally be obtained through a doctor’s prescription. In such cases, it is not illegal to
possess them. In addition, drugs are covered by other laws, are not covered at all or are treated
in an exceptional way under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Some common examples include:

Ketamine
It is expected that Ketamine will become controlled under the misuse of drugs act as a
Class C drug by the end of 2005.

Khat
Khat is not covered under the MDA and is not an offence to possess or supply.

Poppers (alkyl or butyl nitrate)


Poppers are classed as a medicine under the Medicines Act. It is not an offence to possess
or buy them and not illegal for licensed outlets (such as chemists) to supply.

Minor tranquillisers (librium, valium etc)


These are covered under the Misuse of Drugs Act as Class C but possession penalties are waived.
It is not an offence to possess or use them, except for temazepam and rohypnol which are illegal
to be in possession of without a prescription. It is illegal to sell or supply them to another person.

Volatile Substances (aerosols, glue, solvents etc)


Solvents are not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act and it is not against the law for
anyone at any age to buy or possess them. However, it is illegal under the Intoxicating
Substances Supply Act 1985 to supply or offer to supply solvents to under 18’s if the trader
suspects that they will use it for intoxication.

‘Out of Sight? Not out of mind – a framework for addressing Volatile Substance Abuse’ has
been developed by the Department of Health, the Home Office and the Department for
Education and Skills, with support from the Department of Trade and Industry. The initiative
sets out the strategic direction for work in this area and includes recommendations on
identifying best practice in aiming to reduce harm and the number of deaths, in particular,
of young people and children through VSA (including use of butane gas lighter refills).
The recommended actions have been devised through consultation with stakeholders.
The report is available from www.dh.gov.uk/assetRoot/04/11/56/05/04115605.pdf

For more information, see the FRANK leaflet ‘Drugs and the Law’ available from
www.drugs.gov.uk/frank or use the More FRANK form in this pack. And, log on to
www.drugs.gov.uk for updates on changes in the law and access to the latest
research and statistics.

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TIPS

10 WAYS TO REACH VULNERABLE


YOUNG PEOPLE

The problems that vulnerable young people face in their lives mean
that they have different communications needs to other young people.
Information campaigns that elicit a response from other teenagers
can leave the more vulnerable feeling isolated or indifferent, whether
that be because of their living conditions and experiences or due to
their literacy levels or access to mainstream communications media.
Communication around drugs and related issues needs to be
particularly targeted to meet their needs. Use the following 10 tips as a
checklist to help improve your chances of successful communication.

1. MEET THEM ON THEIR GROUND


Use the information in this pack to gain an understanding of who you’re talking to, and let that
inform materials you send out. You are more likely to win the confidence of a young person if
they can see that you understand what they are experiencing at home on a day-to-day basis.

2. SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE


By reflecting the language that vulnerable young people use to talk about drugs, you will add to
the appeal of your communication and reduce the authoritarian feel. But be careful: if you try too
hard to sound ‘street’ you risk sounding fake and losing the trust of the people you are speaking to.

3. TAILOR YOUR APPROACH


Although general conclusions can be drawn from research, it is important not to stereotype
vulnerable young people and to remember that they often have several interconnecting
problems that may need to be dealt with. This can mean shaping your approach to target
different audiences – or even individuals. You might find it useful to join forces with another
organisation offering services that help the vulnerable young people you are targeting.

4. TALK FACE TO FACE


Young people respond well if they have an opportunity to talk face-to-face. In an educational
context, this might be a question and answer session. But if you are speaking to young people who
might have a drug problem, it might mean offering a one-to-one meeting to talk through issues.

In some areas, peer mentoring has been used to get young people talking about their feelings
and issues that are important to them. As well as providing the young person with a chance to
meet with someone, it can increase a young person’s chance of opening up to someone they
are more likely to identify with.

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5. INVOLVE RECOVERED USERS
One of the barriers to communicating with vulnerable young people is getting them to
appreciate the authenticity of the information they are being offered. Standard communications
are often deemed to be too authoritarian or considered factually incorrect in relation to their
own experiences.

However, for some groups, information given by a recovered user (someone who has ‘been
there, done that’ and managed to come through the experience), can often be seen as
being more trustworthy. If you can’t involve recovered users in face-to-face meetings, a good
alternative is to use them as a real life case study in another form of communication.

6. RELATE DRUGS TO OTHER PROBLEMS


The young people you are communicating with will have first-hand knowledge that drug misuse
can be related to a host of other problems. It is likely that they will be experiencing one or
more of these problems themselves. By acknowledging issues such as domestic violence, sexual
abuse, homelessness and mental health, for example, this can help reduce a young person’s
chances of becoming a problematic drug user.

7. KEEP WORDS TO A MINIMUM


Bearing in mind that many vulnerable young people have low literacy levels, try to keep your
message short – especially if producing printed or online materials. If possible, use symbols,
illustrations or cartoons, which are more accessible, especially if seen to be ‘cool’. If you are
going to use a lot of text, use basic English, keep sentences short and use headlines and
subheads to guide a young person through your document.

8. BE FLEXIBLE
The unpredictability of vulnerable young people’s lifestyles means that, more than their peers,
they value flexible services. So it’s important to let them know where they can turn to in times of
need. If a young person runs away from home, for example, an immediate source of information
or help is going to be vital to them.

9. ENSURE CONFIDENTIALITY
Confidentiality is extremely important. The personal nature of the problems facing many
vulnerable young people means that they are less likely to talk if they think information might
be passed to a third party. Make sure you let young people know what you can and can’t
keep confidential.

10. IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME


Speak to the young people themselves to determine how best to distribute or publicise your
materials or initiative. Find out where the young people you are targeting are likely to hang out,
where they would be likely to see, hear or experience your communications message and what
would make them take notice.

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