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Policy context

The need to support children and young people to make positive choices about alcohol, drugs and tobacco is highlighted in a number of national and local policy documents. Substance Misuse Education is a priority within the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Alcohol and Drug Prevention and Education Model and is a Health and Wellbeing organiser within Curriculum for Excellence.   Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) ensures that wellbeing is central to all of our work in meeting children and young people’s needs.


The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act (2014) is designed to further the Scottish Government's ambition for Scotland to be the best place to grow up in by putting children and young people at the heart of planning and services. The Act strengthens the rights of children and young people and has created new systems to support early intervention. Coupled with the legal framework contained within the Act, Getting It Right for Every Child, (GIRFEC), is the policy vehicle through which the ambitions of the Act will be realised.

The Delivering a Healthy Future: An Action Framework for Children and Young People's Health in Scotland (2007) sets out a structured programme of actions drawn primarily from existing policy initiatives and commitments to improve services for children and young people in Scotland.

Curriculum for Excellence is designed to achieve a transformation in education in Scotland by providing a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum from 3 to 18. Learning in health and wellbeing ensures that children and young people develop the knowledge and understanding, skills, capabilities and attributes which they need for mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing now and in the future. Pupils can expect to develop a variety of strategies to manage their health and wellbeing utilising skills for learning, life and work.

The Greater Glasgow and Clyde Alcohol and Drug Prevention and Education Model (2012) provides a definition for prevention and education as follows; Prevention and education is defined as largely concerned with encouraging and developing ways to support and empower individuals, families and communities in the acquisition of knowledge, attitudes and skills in which to avoid or reduce the development of alcohol problems, drug misuse and alcohol and drug related harm.

It also highlights 12 evidence-based Core Elements of activity aimed at reducing the harm caused by the use and misuse of alcohol and drugs.

  1. Resilience and Protective Factors
  2. Environmental Strategies
  3. Community Approaches
  4. Diversionary Approaches
  5. Brief Intervention Approaches
  6. Education
  7. Training and Support
  8. Parenting
  9. Social Marketing
  10. Workplace alcohol and drug policies
  11. Harm reduction - Alcohol
  12. Harm reduction – Drugs

To further good practice, a number of core elements should be adopted as part of a prevention and education initiative being devised and a multi-faceted approach taken by staff, for example, teacher training provided to staff (7), lesson plans and resources provided for pupils (6), signposting to diversionary activities (4) to reduce alcohol and drug use and information for parents (8) to increase parental monitoring.

‘What works’ in drug education and prevention? (2016) recognises that there are difficulties in asserting the key elements of an effective prevention and education approach but nevertheless, prevention programmes for young people are more likely to be effective if they combine social and personal development, resistance skills and normative education techniques.

In addition to the policies and strategies highlighted above, there are a number of key policy documents and research reports which highlight the need for coordinated action at local and national levels to ensure better outcomes for all stakeholders engaged in substance misuse education.  Further information on these is provided below:

Equally Well – the national health inequalities strategy (2008) identified that Health inequalities remain a significant challenge in Scotland and that tackling health inequalities requires action from national and local government and from other agencies including the NHS, schools, employers and Third Sector. The report highlighted children as a priority area, particularly in the early years, with a focus on reducing "killer diseases" such as heart disease, mental health and the harm caused by drugs, alcohol and violence. Key recommendations include the Government leading on the development of support services for families with very young children at risk of poor health and other poor outcomes. Also physical environments that promote healthy lifestyles for children, including opportunities for play, physical activity and healthy eating, should be a priority for local authorities and other public services.

Getting our Priorities Right and other related documents have continually raised the need for more support to be put in place to support vulnerable children and their families. This includes the delivery of initiatives that focus on the development of resilience and protective factors in children and young people with options for parents to attend programmes that include advice on alcohol and drugs.

Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action (2009) outlines the Scottish Government’s strategic approach in tackling alcohol misuse in Scotland’s communities.  The strategy has an overall focus on improving early years, early intervention and addressing health inequalities in an attempt to raise the developmental potential of individuals and communities. As a result, the Framework for Action has identified the need for sustained action in:

  • reducing alcohol consumption
  • supporting families and communities
  • focusing on positive public attitudes and positive choices in relation to alcohol use
  • improved treatment and support

“The Road to Recovery”: A New Approach to Tackling Scotland's Drug Problem (2008), outlines the importance of prevention in reducing the harm caused by drug use; prevention of drug use is more effective than treating established drug problems. The provision of accurate information to the public is vital, as is effective communication with young people in and out with the school environment.”

Supporting the Development of Scotland’s Alcohol and Drug Workforce (2010) recognises that the development of the alcohol and drug workforce in Scotland creates the necessary conditions to deliver a range of flexible and adaptive interventions focused at both the individual level as well as community wellbeing.

Creating a Tobacco-Free Generation – A Tobacco Control Strategy for Scotland (2013) is a five-year strategy that sets out a range of actions across the following themes:

  • Prevention – creating an environment where young people choose not to smoke
  • Protection – protecting people from second-hand smoke
  • Cessation – helping people to quit smoking

The strategy sets out aspirations to achieve a tobacco-free Scotland by 2034. The overriding aim is to create a generation of Scots who do not want to smoke and are largely devoid of tobacco use leading to health, social and economic benefits.

Finally, there is also a wealth of information available on young people and risk behaviours in Scotland with a number of agencies responsible for collating a range of data and statistics with regard to national and local risk behaviour information, public health challenges and trends.  This includes,

The NHS Health Scotland overview of alcohol, drug, mental health and wellbeing, sexual health and young people related research clearly shows that more needs to be done to tackle alcohol, drug and tobacco use with young people.