Learning how to kick the habit

Michael Prestage

By the end of the summer more than 200 youngsters from inner-city Liverpool will have attended soccer camps run by Everton Football Club and received an anti-drugs message.

The work at the club has been financed in part by the Home-Office-backed Liverpool Drugs Prevention Initiative and as well as honing their football skills the youngsters leave with a "say no to drugs T-shirt" and information pack.

Ted Sutton, the community officer at Everton, said: "The camps are very popular and help keep the kids occupied during the summer holidays. While they are here they are not at risk of being tempted into trying drugs. The anti-drugs message also gets home better with the local football club behind it."

As well as the soccer camps the drug prevention team has backed a number of initiatives for younger people during the summer. At Bromborough Youth Club a group of young people made a video about drugs and produced a questionnaire to go with it. This was taken to other youth clubs in the city to promote debate on the issue.

But for these young people it is not all about hammering home a drugs message. Those youngsters who had made the video were last week climbing in West Wales as part of a Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme course.

The drug prevention initiatives were set up in 1990 following fears of a crack epidemic. That never materialised but their anti-drug work goes on and in Liverpool the initiative gives support and financial backing to suitable projects.

Marlene Ball, team leader on the initiative, said any scheme or idea must come from the community. As an example she cited the Fazakerley Community Federation which came up with an idea for the summer that involved a range of activities for younger people. The initiative provided financial backing and now youngsters in the area are taking part in pastimes ranging from football to belly dancing.

At Dovecote, a drug awareness advice and information centre was established where young people could receive counselling. During the summer this has been developed so that a variety of activities can be held to keep young people occupied during out of school time.

Ms Ball said: "We are looking to promote good practices. Over the past couple of years we have supported a number of groups and their work has proved valuable for their communities. We want to encourage drug prevention through community developments."

Across the river Mersey on the Wirral two part-time drug prevention workers, Wendy Robertson and Janet Tilley, are working on a project to train a group of young people to help their peers. Last month a group of 15 people aged 14 to 16 attended a residential course where they were taught about drugs and how to put over a drug-prevention message.

Alex Corina, a team leader with the drug prevention initiative, said it was still unclear how effective such summer-time activities were in drugs prevention.

"It is a tantalising question just which of our approaches work and what we now need is a long-term evaluation," she said.

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