Grandparents Will Be Given Help To Look After Children Of Addicts

Grandparents are to be given help to care for the offspring of their drug-addicted children as part of the Government’s ten-year drug strategy announced yesterday.

Ministers want to make it easier for them to win the guardianship of their grandchildren, as part of a drive to reduce the number of children with drug-addicted parents being put in care homes.

The rules will also be changed to make it easier for local councils to pay grandparents to look after their grandchildren. Kevin Brennan, the Children and Families Minister, said that the Government was concerned by the emerging danger of “intergenerational drug abuse”.

He said: “It’s a sad fact of substance misuse that grandparents often step in to pick up the pieces. This measure will include things like making it easier for them to obtain special guardianship orders and for local authorities to be able to pay money to grandparents, which can happen only in exceptional cases at the moment.”

The strategy outlined a plan to require drug misusers on incapacity benefit and jobseeker’s allowance to attend a meeting with specialist drug agencies or risk having their benefits cut. The Government will explore linking the payment of benefits to a drug misuser staying on a treatment course.

Critics have cautioned that the move could lead addicts to turn to crime to fund their habit, but ministers said that the drug abusers would not lose all their benefits. Vernon Coaker, a Home Office Minister, said: “We are trying to see how we can do this in a reasonable and proportionate way. The intention is not to get to a situation where there is a complete withdrawal of benefits.”

The strategy also proposed improvements to drug education for children. Young people should be told about the dangers of prescription medicines in the home from the ages of 4 or 5, Mr Brennan said. A review was looking at the age at which primary school children should be taught about illegal drugs, he added.

The Home Office will seek to change the law so that police can confiscate assets from suspected drug dealers at the point of arrest. Valuables such as plasma televisions and jewellery – as well as larger items such as cars and yachts – would be seized on arrest to deny criminals the opportunity to conceal them before their trial.

These plans have been criticised by David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, and civil liberties groups, who queried the legality of seizing goods before convictions.

Drugs charities gave the strategy a mixed response, with a welcome for the focus on families but criticism of the proposal to remove benefits from drug abusers who fail to attend a meeting to discuss their problem. Martin Barnes, of Drugscope, said: “The stick of coercion and threats to remove benefits will be counterproductive without support, well-trained advisers and tackling the reluctance of employers to recruit former drug users.”

Drug use in Britain

332,000 problem drug users in Britain
£15.4bn estimated annual cost to crime and health agencies generated by Class A drugs
£4bn-£6.6bn estimated value of iillicit drug market each year
24% of 16 to 24-year-olds have used an illegal drug in the past year
10% of 16 to 59-year-olds have used an illegal drug in the past year
13.8% of 16 to 59-year-olds have used a Class A drug at least once in their lifetime;
3.4% have used at least one Class A drug in past year
8.2% of 16 to 59-year-olds have used cannabis in the past year
2.75m 16 to 24-year-olds have used an illegal drug in their lifetime
£71 average street price of a gram of cocaine in 1997
£45 average street price of a gram of cocaine last year