Pace set to kick the habit

20th May 2005 at 01:00
Thanks to an award four years ago to the Pace Theatre Company and West Dunbartonshire Council partnership, every 5-to 18-year-old pupil in the authority has taken part in drugs awareness drama sessions.

Pace has used its production of The Y Factor and interactive workshops over the past three years to highlight the fact that most of the young people who dabble in drugs are introduced to them by someone close to them - it might be an older sibling, best friend or a relative - and at that point the young person has a choice and does not have to give way to peer pressure.

"Now it's time to turn our attention to pre-5s," says David Wallace, executive director of Pace, referring to the successful application for funding from the Scottish Drugs Challenge Fund to produce a drugs awareness DVD.

It is one of 35 projects across Scotland to receive backing, with other successful bids in Glasgow, Renfrewshire, Fife, Orkney, Aberdeen, Dundee and Angus.

Mr Wallace says of Pace's new venture: "We will introduce the children to a digital character from another world who wants to learn about our world; what to do and what not to do.

"He might find a disused needle or a medicine cabinet, for example, and questions will be raised about what to do and not to do in such situations.

"But it will be comic and fun, while dealing with serious issues, and the only human voices heard on the DVD will be those of 3-to 5-year-olds, so the children will relate to them," he says.

The DVD and accompanying workshops will be integral to the local authority's established health awareness and improvement strategy.

Angela Simms, West Dunbartonshire's quality improvement officer, says: "It will be presented as part of a health lifestyle in nurseries, part of educating the whole child.

"The project is being done with the backing of our local drugs action team and drug and alcohol forum, not in isolation.

"It's about prevention, looking after yourself and what is good and bad for you.

"The message is: 'It's your life and your choice'," she says.

Mr Wallace believes drug education has to be explored with pre-5s because it is as fundamental as road safety. He also believes that drama is one of the greatest tools an educator can use, especially participatory drama.

"We decided on a DVD and participatory workshops, rather than a live performance, because we felt that three larger-than-life characters interacting with such young children might be a bit much for them.

"So, after they've seen the DVD, or part of it, the main digital character will appear in the nursery, played by an actor. The character will interact with them, which should be quite effective," he says. The DVD will then be left at the school so that staff can use all or part of it again and again.

In addition to its grant for the pre-5s project, Pace has received a Scottish Drugs Challenge Fund award of pound;28,000 for another drugs education-through-drama project. Choices Consequences will be delivered to all 53 primary schools in Renfrewshire, targeting 6,000 P6s-P7s next session.

Celtic Against Drugs has been awarded pound;40,000 from the fund, which has been augmented by pound;92,000 from the private sector. The project will combine fun and football coaching with education on drugs awareness and a healthy lifestyle for all P5s-P7s in the East End of Glasgow. A similar programme will be offered to the children's parents and carers.

In Fife, Hooked In will receive pound;26,000 funding, along with private sector support of pound;4,600 and publicvoluntary sector backing of Pounds 8,000. The scheme will deploy outreach workers in local problem areas to build relationships with about 200 13-to 16-year-olds. The teenagers will be encouraged to participate in community activities, including music tuition, DJ skills, internet access and sport.

The Papdale Youth Shelter in Orkney has been awarded pound;4,250; private sector support amounts to pound;500 and publicvoluntary sector funding to pound;250. The money will be used to install a youth shelter on a council estate in Kirkwall. The shelter will act as an information point, promoting and providing services to local people. The current lack of facilities has increased concerns over anti-social behaviour and drug and alcohol misuse.

The Bon Accord Befrienders' Drugs Service in Aberdeen has been granted Pounds 44,000, with pound;5,600 more coming from the private sector. The project aims to address a specific gap in the support for drug users - namely, a befriending service - based on the model of an alcohol-related project.

In Dundee, Back to the Future, a film-making project about drug misuse, has been awarded pound;3,500. The private sector is giving pound;560 and the publicvoluntary sector pound;1,400. The venture will last 12 months and will involve up to 20 people aged 13 to 18 who are currently involved in drugs misuse and other anti-social behaviour. The group will be supported to create a storyline and produce a 15-minute film, which will be premiered at Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre in December.

Friday Night Fever, a project in Angus, will receive pound;14,800 from the fund, with private sector support of pound;3,250, to enable local young people to produce a musical about the risks that youths take, such as under-age drinking and drug use.

Over 50 young people, some referred from local agencies, will help to produce a 90-minute show. It will be performed live and then filmed, edited in DVD format and used by schools and youth groups, locally and further afield.

FUNDING CRITERIA

Partnership bids to the Scottish Drugs Challenge Fund, administered by Scotland Against Drugs, should address one or more of the following key themes:

* reducing the acceptability and incidence of drug misuse among young people

* changing attitudes among communities and encouraging cohesive action

* increasing access to information and services for vulnerable groups

* modifying behaviour

* reducing the harm arising from drug misuse and in particular by encouraging and promoting new and existing positive alternative activities to drug misuse

* educating young people about drugs and their effects in partnership with local agencies

* reducing health risks

* increasing community safety

* local enforcement activities which aim progressively to prevent drug misuse arising in the first place

* ensuring significant community involvement and supporting community action in reducing the availability of drugs locally.

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