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City to try in-house help with drugs

In the war against drugs Labour has turned to a tsar. Liverpool, by contrast, is turning to counsellors.

The city is on the brink of training teachers to act as drugs counsellors in all its secondary schools in a pioneering scheme run by the council and Merseyside police.

The counsellors are to help pupils with drugs problems and also to be a contact for children, staff or parents concerned about a drugs issue.

Secondary schools are to nominate a member of staff for training that is expected to start shortly.

David Barrie, Liverpool's head of community education, said the introduction of school-based counsellors was not a reflection of a serious drugs problem in the city, but rather of an innovative approach to tackling the issue.

"I am sure that every part of the country has its drugs problem," he said. "Liverpool has its share, but no more than you would expect. What is different here is the responsive and proactive way we are dealing with it."

Mr Barrie stressed that schools should not overreact. There were only five permanent exclusions for drug-related incidents last year which, he said, was a sign that schools were moving away from the knee-jerk reaction of permanent exclusions.

He said attempts to set up an external drug counselling service had not been completely successful and it was felt the initiative should come from within the school. This had been supported by all the secondary heads in the city.

The training will be organised by the council's adviser on health education and the counsellors would be able to call on outside agencies for help.

Annette Lyons, the health education adviser, said: "Liverpool is regarded as leading the way in drugs education and the counselling initiative will make a major contribution to the drugs prevention work already under way in the city."

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