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Scoping drug and alcohol consumption in young people on the Isle of Sheppey

Scoping drug and alcohol consumption in young people on the Isle of Sheppey

Barshell, K., Foster, J.H. ORCID: 0000-0002-7662-8203, Meerabeau, E. and West, E. (2011) Scoping drug and alcohol consumption in young people on the Isle of Sheppey. Project Report. University of Greenwich, Greenwich, UK.

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Executive Summary: Scoping Drug and Alcohol Consumption in Young People on the Isle of Sheppey.

Introduction: In 2008 the Sheppey Health and Wellbeing Group (SHWG) raised awareness of the need for a project on the Isle of Sheppey with a focus upon drug and alcohol abuse. The SHWG is a network of over 20 local community groups and partners involved in various local public health initiatives. The group had been concerned for some time by regular reports of drugs and alcohol abuse in Sheerness, often leading to fights and other anti-social behaviour.
The University of Greenwich was identified as a suitable partner to gather data about local needs. The members of the SHWG agreed that Sheppey Matters was best placed to work with the University on this project, funding was obtained from the HEFCE funded SECC initiative and a community researcher was employed to bridge the gap between the University of Greenwich and the Isle of Sheppey. The project was overseen by a steering group of individuals from the Isle of Sheppey and University of Greenwich. The members who were Sheppey–based were as followed: Councillor Kenneth Pugh- Chair (Member Sheerness District), Mike Brown (Chair of the Sheppey Health and Wellbeing Group), Nigel Martin (Manager- Sheppey Matters) and Kelly Barshell (Community Researcher). The following individuals from the University of Greenwich were on the Committee; Professor Elizabeth Meerabeau (Dean of School, Health and Social Care), Professor Elizabeth West (Director of Research, School of Health and Social Care), Professor Roslyn Corney (Psychology and Counselling) and Dr John Foster- (Principal Research Fellow in Mental Health Nursing and Substance Use.)
In addition to collecting data about local needs the project team have to date developed two pilot projects; firstly a survey of drug and alcohol use in young people attending Sheppey Academy aged 14-18 and secondly a residents survey investigating the impact of drug and alcohol use in young people on the island. The aim is to leave a legacy of research skills that would, in the long run, benefit the island’s young people. Local volunteers were recruited to assist the community researcher who commenced employment in March 2010. These volunteers have received training/supervision from researchers from the University and were able to attend 2 one day public health workshops. Health professionals and workers from the third sector attended the public health workshops on social marketing and community engagement that contributed to the legacy of the project.

Methodology: This has primarily been a scoping exercise to explore drug and alcohol use in young people, though substance use data relating to adult populations has also been collected. The five main modes of data collection were as follows:
• Publically available health and crime and datasets, such as hospital admission data. Similar locally focused crime-related data has proved far harder to obtain.
• Survey of young people from Sheppey Academy
• Residents survey conducted via the internet
• Focus Groups of Young People
• Stakeholder interviews with a member of the local primary care trust, street wardens, senior member of staff from Sheppey Academy, workers from local voluntary and statutory sector local drug and alcohol treatment services and commissioner of drug and alcohol services.

Ethical approval was granted for the study by the University of Greenwich Research Ethics Committee in April 2010.

Key Findings:
Publicly Available Data
• Notwithstanding some data collection anomalies alcohol-related hospital admissions for the Isle of Sheppey are disproportionate compared to the rest of Swale and Kent.
• This is particularly marked for women.
• No data has so far been located that would allow us to conclusively attribute anti-social behaviour to alcohol or drug use.
• Hard data about drugs use and criminality on the island has been very difficult to locate.

Survey of Young People:
• 400 students from Sheppey Academy aged 13-19 (14.8, 0.9, Mean, SD) (males 168 (42%), females 232 (58%) replied to a survey on drug and alcohol use.
• The vast majority were occasional alcohol users who other than being sick caused or encountered very few problems when drinking.
• The police were active on the island and it was common for young people to have contact with them.
• Less than five percent had any form of medical treatment as a result of their drinking.
• Only 13% of the sample had ever used an illicit drug.
• Cannabis was the most frequent illicit drug taken and this was only on an occasional basis

Residents Survey conducted via the internet:
• 109 responses were received and other than Leysdown all areas of the island provided responses consistent with their population levels.
• The majority of respondent were 20-30 and 65+
• There was drug and alcohol related anti-social behaviour and drug dealing but it was at the same level of concern as “rubbish or litter” and “people not treating other people with respect and consideration.”

Focus Groups of Young People:
• Two mixed gender focus groups. Group a) students aged 16-17 from Sheppey Academy. Group b) aged 15-16 and recruited through the Sheppey Healthy Living Centre.
• The participants confirmed the findings of the young people’s survey.
• A number had alcohol confiscated by the anti-social behaviour vehicle but would have also welcomed having their parents informed
• Alcohol was easy to obtain chiefly from off-licenses rather than pubs or supermarkets.
• Alcohol was frequently obtained through parents, older siblings and older friends
• Alcohol and Drug Education classes delivered in their schools were regarded as having minimal impact. A number could not remember whether they received them or not.
• The main reason the participants drank was boredom
• Drug use in the focus group participants was minimal and infrequent.
• The participants would have welcomed greater activities such as sports or a night clubs.
• One of the main problems impacting upon them was poor public transport- especially buses to the more remote parts of the island which are infrequent and stop at 7.30pm.

Stakeholder Interviews:
• Anti-social behaviour is not spread evenly across the island, but is concentrated around beaches and parks as follows: Warden:- area near Donkey Hill, Queenborough; Stanley Avenue, Rushenden: Manor Road, Halfway Area around car park. Minster: Lapwing Close, Harps Estate, Noreen Avenue, Bunnybank, The Glen, Redrow Estate, Appleford Drive, The Broadway, The Leas, Queens Road and behind the supermarket car park and finally Sheerness: Vincent Court, Edenbridge Drive, Beach Front, Beachfield Park, Barton Points, Marine Town, the canal, the town centre, St. Georges Avenue, the railway station and various alleyways in and around the Alma Road area.
• Anti-social behaviour worsens in the summer months
• Drug and alcohol use in young people on the island is largely seen as being consistent with the rest of Kent and the rest of England, though there are a small number who are encountering significant alcohol and drug–related problems.
• Alcohol and drug use on the island has to be seen within the context of deprivation, isolation and perceived lack of opportunity
• The main drug of choice for young people on the island is alcohol
• In relation to illicit drugs in young people, cannabis use is the most prevalent followed by Ecstasy and legal highs such as mephedrone*
• Problematic illicit drug use requiring treatment intervention tends to be uncommon and spread across a number of generations.
• There is a perception that drug problems and drug dealing have reduced since the closure of a nightclub in Sheerness in 2004.

Role of Volunteers/Public Health Workshops:
One of the first tasks of the community researcher was to recruit volunteers to assist in delivering the proposed pilot studies. Prior to the advertisement being placed the project was publicised in the local press and radio. Potential volunteers were subject to a criminal records check, a process that took approximately three months so volunteers were not able to take an active role in the project until May/June 2010. Originally five volunteers were recruited, two found employment in the interim, one did not attend any meetings after initially expressing an interest and two took an active role in the study.
In July 2010 a Social Marketing workshop, facilitated by two external consultants, was held at University of Greenwich Medway Campus. It was attended by thirty people including the two volunteers. The majority of the participants were professionals/volunteers with an interest in drug/alcohol use/young people who lived or worked on the island. Thus although the numbers were small a great deal of goodwill was developed that could be utilised to drive the project forward. Another workshop was held concerning enhancing community engagement in December 2010. It was a one day workshop held on two days attended by voluntary and statutory workers from the island and mainland Swale. Six individuals attended on day 1 and eight on day 2. This coincided with very cold weather so attendance was disappointing, however the courses were both positively evaluated by the participants.

Establishing a legacy for the project:
The project team are taking a number of steps to ensure a permanent legacy for the project.
• A DVD aimed at the public health community has been made using a production company employed by Sheppey Matters celebrating the project and summarising the main findings. Key personnel from both Sheppey Matters and the University of Greenwich have been filmed in addition to young people on the island. The final result is also available in a series of pod/video casts that will be uploaded on to the web sites of Centre for Nursing and Health Care Research – University of Greenwich and Sheerness Healthy Living Centre.
• On May 27th a dissemination event for the project was held to celebrate the work and establish local goodwill to push it forward. Key local stakeholders were invited to hear the main findings being presented with ideas about providing permanent initiatives to improve health of both young people and adults on the island.
• The legacy is concerned with taking steps to reduce overall drug and alcohol use on the island. The first of these concerns drug and alcohol education for young people. The focus groups confirmed that alcohol/drug education was not highly regarded by the young people. There is now a large evidence base that finds that if drug/alcohol education is to have a positive impact it has to be appropriate for age of the audience and re-inforced throughout the school career. The University of Greenwich will work to secure funding for a worker to deliver the education in an evidence based way using established templates and train teachers/youth workers etc to continue this work once the project has ended. As part of the project the work will be evaluated.
• The SOS bus is a public health initiative that has been funded in part by Medway PCT and evaluated by a team from the University of Greenwich. It delivers public health interventions such as screening for diabetes and providing advice re sexual health etc and the intention now is for this bus to be used in a similar way on Sheppey. If funding can be found for this it will be particularly important in reaching the more remote parts of the island.
• Data from the study has shown that many young people come into frequent contact with the police and in some cases a greater police presence would be welcomed. It is also important to note that the culture surrounding young people’s drug and alcohol use is constantly evolving-social networking packages such as facebook and twitter may produce fresh challenges for the police. The research team are now working with Councillor Kenneth Pugh to negotiate a formal advisory role with the police on the island.

Note: * Mephedrone was legal at the time of the interviews. It has since been

November 2011

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Uncontrolled Keywords: drugs, alcohol, young people, public health, community engagement, Isle of Sheppey
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Health & Social Care
School of Health & Social Care > Department of Social Work & Health Development
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:17

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