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Tackling volatile substance abuse in Scotland: A training course for the social care workforce


Glue and disinfectant have their place in all our houses, but their use as intoxicants threatens, as cocaine use or pill popping do not, the boundary roles between the normal and the deviant, and undermines the safe roles they have been assigned in our world. Certainly it is true that if these drug practices became common, no home would be safe. But our reaction is primarily aesthetic. We are revolted by the ease with which the normal can become abnormal. It challenges our vision of what is natural; it is a threatening example of matter out of place.

Manderson, D. (1995) 'Metamorphoses: clashing symbols in the social construction of drugs' The Journal of Drug Issues, 25, 4 799-816

Who is this training course aimed at?

The programme is designed for use by staff within Scottish social work departments. These staff may not necessarily be trained in substance misuse issues, but they may be best placed to screen individuals who are vulnerable to substance misuse or to recognise those currently using substances and thereby support the assessment process of individuals.

These staff may be involved in the delivery of prevention programmes through, for example, drug and alcohol education or Health Promoting Schools. They may also provide the first level of interventions with the young person such as information and advice, health promotion or support to the young person and their family, with referral if necessary.

They need to be aware of policy and procedures relevant to their role and organisation, such as drug intoxication policies, emergency procedures, issues of confidentiality, with parents, school, police and within social work services, and risk assessment in line with local child protection policies.

The programme is therefore designed for use with the following:

Foster carers and residential care staff
Looked after and accommodated young people are more vulnerable to using solvents. Carers need to be able to reinforce prevention messages, recognise solvents and be confident about how to act.
Supervising social workers/Family placement workers, fieldwork staff and criminal justice social workers
Qualified staff should have high levels of generic skills, but can use elements from this pack to increase specific knowledge of volatile substances.
Other residential staff
Other staff, for example cleaners, may be in a good position to identify problems at an early stage. These staff may be the first people to see the physical evidence of use. They may also have an informal relationship with looked after young people that is different and more open than the young person has with their social worker.
Managers and commissioners
The pack includes information sheets for people addressing policies and practices to ensure that VSA has a place on the agenda.
Other professionals
The information within this training course should be of benefit to anyone who has a professional responsibility for the welfare of young people.
This pack links with booklets and other information for parents. Many looked after young people reported that they would be most likely to talk about these issues with their parents, despite what family problems there were.1
Young people have described examples of successful mentoring as those natural relationships with an unrelated adult involving trust and reciprocity. Within such relationships they are able to accept criticism, feel that they can talk and be listened to, and exert some degree of control.
Young people
The pack includes perspectives from young people as well as materials and activities for use with them.

  1. Boylan, J., Braye, S. & Worley, C. (2001) Social Services Training Needs in Relation to Volatile Substance Abuse by Young People Looked After by Local Authorities Staffordshire University Institute of Social Work.