Plan to teach primary pupils about drug abuse

Incoming chair of the Policing and Community Safety Partnership, Cllr Jim Bingham, Jonny Ewart and Karen McManus of the Carrick Youth Service, outgoing chairman Cllr Robert Hill and Newtownabbey PSNI Area Commander, Chief Inspector Stephen Reid at last week's PCSP meeting in Ballyclare.
Incoming chair of the Policing and Community Safety Partnership, Cllr Jim Bingham, Jonny Ewart and Karen McManus of the Carrick Youth Service, outgoing chairman Cllr Robert Hill and Newtownabbey PSNI Area Commander, Chief Inspector Stephen Reid at last week's PCSP meeting in Ballyclare.

THE Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) is proposing to educate local primary school children about the dangers of drug abuse.

At the latest meeting of the body held in Ballyclare Town Hall on March 27, the proposals were put forward as part of an action plan to combat alcohol and drug abuse across the borough, working in conjunction with various other partner agencies.

During the meeting, the police outlined the impact alcohol and drugs have on crime in the borough.

Chief Inspector Stephen Reid said 56 per cent of domestic violence reports across the borough involved alcohol abuse.

While he did not have figures concerning drug crime, he said substance abuse across Newtownabbey was “relatively low” compared with other areas.

During the public meeting, youth worker Jonny Ewart outlined the importance of educating young people on the dangers of drug abuse.

He said: “By the time they are 14, 15, 16 it’s too late. When they get to that age it’s more about educating them on the dangers of what they are doing, rather than actual prevention.”

Jonny works for the charitable organisation, the Carrickfergus Community Drugs and Alcohol Advisory Group, which also covers areas of Newtownabbey and Larne.

The group revealed that some school principals were reluctant to allow them into schools to educate kids on the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse.

Jonny continued: “Partly it’s because they do not want others to think there is a problem in their school, but it’s also because people may think primary school children are too young to be taught about the dangers of drug abuse.

“But the age of nine or 10 is the right age to start education on drug abuse. Obviously depending on the age group the information is tailored to their needs.

“But if you think about it, kids in P7 go from their nice cosy primary schools to an institution with teenagers up to the age of 18. It can be a scary time and also time when they can get in with the wrong crowd and end up on drugs.

“The earlier we get to them the better chance we have of having an impact and preventing them from considering drugs.”

During the meeting, the PCSP outlined a number of proposals including working with various voluntary organisations, youth groups and statutory bodies, such as the Probation Board and Youth Justice Agency to develop programmes to combat drug and alcohol abuse.

Chief Inspector Reid said: “We are fortunate that drug abuse is not as high as in other parts of the country, although that is not to downplay the problem

“Certainly alcohol plays a significant role. When drink is involved there is a greater chance of violence. While the police and others work hard on prevention, there are also factors involved which are of a societal issue.”