Testing not enough without treatment

    Drug charities have warned that more investment is needed in drug
    prevention and treatment programmes if the Home Office plans to
    drug-test young people charged with certain crimes are to work.

    It emerged last week that, in 10 pilot areas, 14-17 year olds
    charged with crimes such as car crime, burglary or theft would be
    tested for heroin, crack and cocaine. Anyone testing positive would
    be referred to specialist youth workers.

    Drug testing after charge began in 2001 for over-18s and now
    operates in 66 police areas. An independent evaluation has shown
    that, although testing on its own cannot reduce class A drug use,
    it does help to identify drug using offenders and increase the
    number accessing treatment.

    Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive of social care charity
    Turning Point said the government was right to try to engage with
    young people, but warned the scheme would fail “unless testing is
    accompanied by appropriate treatment”.

    “There is a severe shortage of age appropriate intervention for
    young people,” he said.

    However, DrugScope chief executive Martin Barnes sounded a note of
    caution.

    “A positive result might not indicate problematic drug use in the
    same way as with adult offenders,” he said. “There is also the risk
    of young people being labelled as both offenders and drug users
    when the offence and the drug use may not be connected.”

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