Beware bad drugs advice

1st June 2007 at 01:00
Schools urged by charity to check any material that arrives out of the blue

SCHOOLS ARE being warned against using potentially misleading drugs information being provided as part of money-making schemes.

Teachers should be wary of any unsolicited material they receive, as it is often inaccurate and out-of-date, according to DrugScope, the leading drug information charity.

It says booklets are often part of a scheme where businesses are approached to sponsor the production of the materials at inflated prices.

Businesses are parting with hundreds of pounds for booklets to be sent to schools, often under the false impression that the work is being done by registered charities.

Martin Barnes, the chief executive of DrugScope, said: "This is well established. I would warn schools to be extremely cautious of any material they receive out of the blue in this way.

"Unless the information comes from a recognised source, it can be inaccurate and misleading.

"Young people in schools need access to the latest and highest quality information. These booklets are usually cut-and-paste jobs."

Businesses are also being asked to sponsor anti-bullying and child safety information. The Companies Investigation Branch, part of the Department for Trade and Industry, has wound up a number of publishing companies under common control in the past year. They were wound up on the grounds that they solicited funds from advertisers based on flase representations. These include Ambito, based in Manchester, which sold advertising space in children's activity books giving the impression that money would go to charity or other good causes. Instead, it was found the majority of pound;940,000 raised went to company directors.

If publishing businesses do not make such false claims, they are not breaking the law in attracting sponsorship or advertising.

DrugScope, which has worked with the Department for Education and Skills to draw up information for children, urged schools to check the legitimacy of material. "Our logo is often used without our knowledge, so schools should not assume information comes with our approval," said Mr Barnes.

He encouraged schools to refer to the DrugScope website, the healthy schools programme, school nurses and local authorities and primary care trusts.

Health authorities in Scotland have sent an appeal to businesses and schools not to support unofficial publications aimed at pupils.

* www.drugscope.org.uk

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