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5.8 Drugs and Substance Misuse


The Protection of Children Standard


For procedures regarding smoking and alcohol, see Smoking and Alcohol Procedure.


FRANK - friendly, confidential drugs advice

New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) Resource Pack for Informal Educators and Practitioners (Home Office)


In November 2016, this chapter was updated to include new Psychoactive Substances (NPS) (previously called legal highs) and the Psychoactive Substances Act which came into force on 26 May 2016. Links were also added  to FRANK (friendly, confidential drugs advice) and to the New Psychoactive Substances Resource Pack for Informal Educators and Practitioners (Home Office).


Caption: Drugs Misuse Contents
1. Definition
2. Access/Use of Drugs and Substances
  2.1 Purchasing/Obtaining Drugs or Substances - General
  2.2 Aerosols, Gas, Glue, and Petrol
  2.3 Controlled Drugs or Substances
3. Prevention and Planning
4. Emergency
5. Notifications, Recording and Review

1. Definition

Substances are defined as any substances, whether restricted or prohibited, which may have a harmful affect upon a child; such as:

Alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco, aerosols, ecstasy, khat, magic mushrooms, petrol, solvents and all controlled substances such as amphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, cocaine, hallucinogens, hashish and heroin

It also includes psychoactive  substances which can cause a very similar range of problems to the drugs which they mimic, including a risk of dependence developing with repeated use. Some appear to be more dangerous even than the traditional drugs they mimic.

For procedures regarding smoking and alcohol, see Smoking and Alcohol Procedure.

See: Frank- new psychoactive substances

See also: Frank Drugs and the Law

2. Access/Use of Drugs and Substances

2.1 Purchasing/Obtaining Drugs or Substances - General

All reasonable measures must be used to reduce or prevent children from obtaining drugs or substances which may harm them.

If it is known or suspected that children are obtaining products, which may harm them, whether off the streets, from dealers or traders of any kind, the manager and social worker must be informed and a strategy adopted to reduce or prevent it.

This may include engaging or involving the supplier, if it is safe to do so.

If the problem persists or is serious, relevant specialists or bodies, including Trading Standards or the Police, should be informed.

2.2 Aerosols, Gas, Glue, and Petrol

Managers must ensure that aerosols, gas, glue, petrol and similar substances are only used for the purpose they were designed for; and that all reasonable measures are taken to restrict their use to staff and children who are known to pose no risk to themselves or others if they have access to them.

The arrangements for the obtaining, storage and use of these substances in each home must be outlined in the Staff Handbook and Children's Guide or individual children's Placement Plans.

2.3 Controlled Drugs or Substances

Under no circumstances may controlled drugs and substances, other than those prescribed by a medical practitioner, be permitted in any Home.

3. Prevention and Planning

The manager of each home must ensure that information, guidance and advice on the risks associated with harmful drugs and substances are available to all children in the home.

Additionally, any child known or suspected to be at participating in drug or substances misuse activities must be provided with the following:

  • Targeted relevant information, guidance and advice to help reduce or prevent such risks;
  • A Strategy for managing the risk, outlined in a Placement Plan.

The strategy should state whether, and in what circumstances, the Police will be notified

4. Emergency

If it suspected that a child is misusing harmful drugs or substances and no Strategy exists to reduce or prevent the behaviour, the Manager of the home and relevant social worker(s) should be contacted and an agreement reached on how to proceed; this will include whether the Police will be notified.

If there are immediate risks, which make it impractical to contact the manager or social worker, staff should take what actions are immediately necessary then inform the manager and social worker(s) at the first opportunity.

The actions that staff take will be dependent on the circumstances and the degree of offence or injury that is likely, but staff must be mindful of the following:

  1. The overall responsibility of staff is to protect children, themselves and others from injury and reduce or prevent the likelihood of criminal offences;
  2. If there is a risk of serious harm, injury or of a serious criminal offence and staff are unable to manage safely, the Police should be notified;
  3. If solvents are involved, allow air to circulate freely and extinguish naked lights;
  4. If any person is unconscious, in a fit or convulsing or other wise seriously ill, emergency first aid should be given and an ambulance requested. The emergency services should be informed that there are suspicions of drug or solvent misuse;
  5. The drugs/substances should be removed or confiscated, preferably with the co-operation of the child(ren), and preferably by two staff; who must record their actions, describing what they have obtained and where it has been safely stored;
  6. If children do not co-operate or there is a risk of Injury or Damage to Property, it may be necessary to use Physical Intervention, conduct a Search or call for Police assistance.

See the following additional Chapters:

No further action, beyond making the situation safe and attempting to confiscate harmful drugs or substances, should be taken without a manager's authorisation, preferably in consultation with the relevant social worker.

However, the staff should undertake the following if a manager is not available within a reasonable timescale:

  • Substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, aerosols, gas, glue, and petrol should then be put in a safe place out of the reach of children or disposed of safely;
  • Controlled substances and any associated materials or paraphernalia must be placed in a clearly marked box or other strong container, sealed and given to the manager who must arrange for it to be taken to a competent authority e.g. Pharmacist or doctor; and a receipt obtained.

When safe to do so, the manager and relevant social workers should be notified and a decision reached on the actions/measures, which should be taken. This should include whether the Police should be notified.

5. Notifications, Recording and Review

5.1 Notifications

Any incidents must be notified must be notified immediately to the Home's Manager and the relevant Social Worker notified within 1 working day.

Serious incidents e.g. if the Police or other emergency services are called, must be notified to The Designated Manager (Drugs) and consideration given to whether the incident is a Notifiable Event, see Notification of Serious Events Procedure.

5.2 Recording and Review

All incidents must be recorded in the Home's Daily Log and relevant child's Daily Record.

An Incident Report must also be completed.

The Child's Placement Plan should be reviewed with a view to incorporating strategies to reduce or prevent future incidents.