Kids, 10, on drink and drugs

CHILDREN as young as ten have been reported in the Capital for abusing drink and drugs, it was revealed today.

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A total of 26 underage youngsters were referred to the Children's Reporter over drugs or alcohol misuse after police deemed intervention was needed to protect them.

Children's charities today said the figures were worrying and said youngsters were putting their lives at risk.

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Up to four ten-year-olds were reported by officers for substance misuse between last April and March. The figures also included children aged 12 and 13 abusing drugs and alcohol, while nine 14-year-olds and eight 15-year-olds were reported.

However, the number of under-18s reported for substance misuse fell compared with the previous year when 53 were identified, the youngest of whom was 12.

Police chiefs said the force's work in educating youngsters at school and tackling the illegal sale of alcohol to under-18s may be factors behind the drop.

Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: "Parents, teachers, police and local authorities all have a role to play to ensure that children are protected from the harm caused by alcohol. Adults should never provide alcohol to children as children's bodies aren't developed enough to cope with alcohol, so even relatively small amounts of alcohol can be problematic.

"Adults should also be aware that their own drinking behaviour will influence their children's attitude to alcohol.

"We should be giving children and young people a clear message that excessive drinking has more negative than positive consequences."

Kate Higgins, policy manager for charity Children 1st, said: "It is often the case that when a child or young person is using drugs or alcohol it is as a consequence of something else that is affecting their life in a negative way. This should be investigated and addressed and their support needs recognised."

Youngsters reported for misusing drink or drugs are typically referred if they are felt to be at risk due to their behaviour and may require intervention to ensure their protection. That can include supervision orders or being taken to secure accommodation.

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Tom Philliben, reporter manager for east region with the SCRA, said the drop in alcohol and drug-related referrals may be due to "pre-referral screenings" which try to identify vulnerable youngsters at an earlier stage.

Mr Philliben added: "However, there is still cause for concern when we are getting young children coming to the attention of the Reporter due to alcohol and drugs issues. Children referred in these circumstances are recognised to be at risk, and require intervention for their own care and protection. It is vital that these children are identified and given the earliest and most effective support and intervention."

A police spokesman said: "Lothian and Borders Police is committed to tackling substance misuse among young people, through a combination of early intervention and robust enforcement.

"As well as educating young people to the dangers of alcohol and drug misuse through initiatives such as our annual Choices for Life event, our local officers organise diversionary activities designed to provide young people with an alternative to substance misuse and associated forms of antisocial behaviour."

He added: "In appropriate cases we will refer young people that we identify as having issues with substance misuse to social work, in order that action can be taken to address that individual's behaviour."

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