Scottish roundtable debate ends with calls for more standards, consistency, creativity and less party politics to help children at risk
On Friday 8th February, child protection professionals ranging from lawyers through to social workers and the leading children’s charity Aberlour, met to discuss how the impact of parental substance misuse can be best managed in the interests of the children involved.
Organised by Trimega Laboratories, a science company that specialises in analysing parents’ hair samples for drugs and alcohol, the debate took place in The Scotsman Hotel, Edinburgh.
“We initially set up the roundtable to find out why Scottish courts use only a handful of hair tests every year.” said Douglas MacSween, who chaired the event and is Trimega Lab’s General Manager. “In England and Wales, tens of thousands of child custody hearings use drug and alcohol hair tests almost as a matter of course, to provide useful, sometimes critical information, to inform assessments and difficult decisions.” Mr MacSween explained. “But the debate quickly broadened out to a far more wide ranging discussion on improving support for children at risk from parental drug and alcohol misuse.”
Judge Nicholas Crichton kicked off the event with an inspiring outline of the setting up of the Family Drug and Alcohol Court in London, which he pioneered.
Those present called for ‘more joined-up thinking' – such as including housing agencies in the loop when trying to support addicts to break their habit, and for party political lines to be replaced by a government of national unity on this issue.
Mr MacSween concluded: “Trimega will publish a summary of the discussion shortly, which was an informed, constructive debate, and could provide a useful contribution to how Scotland helps vulnerable children in the future.”
About parental drug and alcohol use in Scotland
From ‘Drug Misuse Statistics Scotland’
• A quarter of adults (25.2%) reported having taken illicit drugs at least once during their lives. 7.2% of adults had used one or more illicit drug in the last year. 4.2% of adults had used one or more illicit drug in the last month.
• Forty-one per cent of individuals seeking treatment or advice from drug services reported that they had dependent children under the age of 16 years old. This figure has remained largely stable since 2006/07
• Twenty-nine per cent of those taking drugs reported also drinking alcohol drinking alcohol every day.
• In Scotland, in 2010/11, there were 533,733 prescriptions for methadone oral solution (cost £28 million)
UK Government data states alcohol fuels:
• over 1 million fights per year
• 19,000 sexual assaults
• 360,000 cases of domestic violence
About the Family Drug and Alcohol Court
The award-winning Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) is run by Coram and the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and is the first of its kind in the UK.
Launched in January 2008, FDAC is a new way of dealing with care proceedings when parental substance misuse causes harm to children and care proceedings are underway.
FDAC aims to help parents stabilise or stop using drugs and /or alcohol and, where possible, keep families together. It is based on a model widely used in the USA which is showing promising results. The process involves co-ordinating a range of services so that a family’s needs and strengths are taken into account, with everyone working towards the best possible outcome for the child; a stable and safe family.
It is run at the Inner London Family Proceedings Court and is currently offered to families referred via the commissioning local authorities of Camden, Islington, Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham and Southwark.
About Trimega Laboratories
Established in London in 2005, Trimega Laboratories is a leader in the development of innovative techniques for testing for substances of abuse. Its core business is laboratory-based analysis of hair samples that provide accurate historical records of alcohol or drugs dependency over a one to 12 month period. In the UK, Trimega’s core clients include: family law specialists, law courts, and social services.
Trimega was the first to market with dual-marker hair alcohol testing (FAEE and EtG). Dual hair testing provides very accurate results: at its annual conference in March 2011, the Society of Hair Testing (SoHT) confirmed that dual testing on hair for alcohol misuse provides accuracy rates of over 94%, with less than 1% risk of a false positive, and just 5.75% risk of a false negative. The SoHT’s consensus was based on analysis of Trimega’s data set of approximately 2,000 dual hair testing samples, the largest of its kind in the world.
Trimega has won many awards, and most recently was one of 25 companies to represent the UK in the 2011 European Business Awards.
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