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Calls for education on substance abuse after nine-year-old sent for treatment

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A Freedom of Information request by the Press Association revealed that of the 122 local authorities who answered the request, 15 authorities said that they had a child or children aged 10 or younger who had been referred for specialist treatment.
South Ayrshire was the authority with the youngest child - aged four-years-old and Waltham Forest and East Ayrshire both had children aged eight.
West Berkshire, along with Herefordshire, Liverpool, Oxfordshire, Rutland and the Scottish Borders all said they had a referral of a nine-year-old child.
The figures have lead to both the Government and charities to call for better teaching of the harms of drugs and alcohol in schools.
West Berkshire Council's shadow member for children and young people and education, David Allen (Lib Dem, Victoria), said that after seeing the figures he would be bringing the issue up with the district council.
He said: The problem seems to be a national issue but one young child in West Berkshire needing treatment is one too many.
"I support any government initiatives to tackle this problem.
"At a council level I will raise the issue with the Health and Wellbeing Board and would encourage teachers to have access to the latest drug education resources allowing them to inform pupils of the dangers of drug misuse."
A referral can mean the child is vulnerable to drug and alcohol misuse through exposure from a parent or other relative or could have started abusing substances themselves.
Kennet School in Thatcham oversees Whitelands Park Primary School through the Kennet School Academies Trust board of directors.
In terms of Whitelands, the headteacher of Kennet School, Paul Dick said that there were two thought camps in terms of whether drug and alcohol education should be taught in primary schools – one set believed that children should be given the information and the other believed that if you taught it, you would be putting ideas in children’s heads.
However, he said that most schools made their own decisions about what was taught.
He said: “For younger children it’s about legal drugs and other things that could be found in the home that they should not touch.”
Saying that alcohol and drug education was a shared responsibility between schools and parents, he added: “Schools, whether primary or secondary, look to build on the resilience and confidence of children so that when they are put in a position, they make the right choice.
“This is partly to do with them and partly to do with the facts we have given to them.”
About 366 children aged 12 or under were referred for treatment in 2012/13 in England, according to the most recent figures from Public Health England, compared with 433 in 2011/12.
West Berkshire Council was unable to provide a response as to whether the cases of young people being referred to specialists was on the rise and what services were available by the council to young people in need in the district.

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