A Young Inspector's Journal report on substance misuse services in Dorset. by Max Purkiss

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1 A Young Inspector's Journal report on substance misuse services in Dorset by Max Purkiss

2 Introduction As a young inspector for the Dorset area I am used to going to projects and places to inspect and write reports. However, this time I was given a case study on a young person with alcohol misuse issues. The main aim of the project was to put yourself in the mind of a young person with a friend with some form of alcohol misuse issue and decide how to go about getting them help without breaking character. I aimed to find out as much information about the services, information and advice to help them and evaluate the good parts and conclude where and how they could be improved. The Case Study "James is 14 and you are one of his friends. James is a funny and social guy who likes skateboarding and hanging out with friends at the local skate park. When you are all together at the weekends you all try to get some alcohol. He either tries and gets someone to buy it for him or he takes it from his parents stash at home. The group enjoy getting drunk and you all think it's a good laugh. However, whilst most of the group get a bit drunk, James drinks a lot more than the rest of you and you often have to take him home after he has been sick. One weekend he got really violent after drinking and started a fight with another young lad. Luckily you managed to split the fight up before anyone was seriously hurt but James had a black eye and a cut lip. So his parents wouldn't find out, you had James stay over at your house for the night. You are getting worried about James' change in personality and his health. To make matters worse, over the last couple of weeks, the group haven't been able to get hold of any alcohol and this has made James angry. Last Saturday he asked you to go to the local supermarket with him where he stole a bottle of cider. Whilst you didn't agree with James stealing and you felt scared that you might get caught, you just went along with it and didn't tell James how you felt. Now you're worried that next weekend he is going to ask you to do it again." Methodology When we were first given the new inspection and case study, we discussed several questions as a group; What information would you want? Who might you want to speak to? Where might you find this information? We were able to decide how we would go about helping James and how we would record the information. My initial thoughts were to talk to a youth worker I know and one of my friends. I had no other plans to carry out at this stage as I was largely relying on the youth worker and my friend giving me some form of information to follow up on. As a result of the information we were given, our second part of research involved trying to to call local help organisations using a mobile. For some of this work, I worked in partnership with another young inspector as this would prove to be easier to talk to people in person, as we would give each other confidence and would be able to fill in any information either of us were to forget; this would also help us to collect information faster and with incredible ease. We were told the information we would need to record and the type of feedback the Council were looking for. Collecting data Seeking advice from a youth worker My initial reaction to the case study lead me to the decision to talk to my local youth worker with a

3 fellow colleague; we recorded our first conversation with this youth worker through text. After having a conversation about James with our youth worker, the main solution to James' problem was to refer him to a group known as Shadows who are based in Blandford, and would be one of the best choices for advice and to help with any alcohol related problems. He said it would be best for James to get help sooner rather than later as after a while it will get back to his parents. He has known of similar people and said that you could find them dead. As a friend this would be concerning and would make us want to help him in any way possible. The youth worker offered to get James in and have a talk with him privately in his office. He said that everything would be private and confidential and made this clear by not wanting to know his name (unless we stated it). However, we were not able to give a full name since the case study didn't include other names. The youth worker also said he would have been able to organise a meeting for him inside the youth club to help him resolve his alcohol issues. He wrote on a card the phone number for Shadows, and as a young person this would be very useful. He also said to subtly bring it up when talking to him to avoid him getting suspicious or hostile in conversation, especially ifhe is under the influence of alcohol. He made Shadows seem like the best option for our situation and seemed to listen and understand it, whereas other people that we would have to phone would be less personal. As we know the youth worker well and trust him it would be easier and more comfortable to listen and take advice from him. Phoning Shadows Taking the information and suggestions the youth worker gave us, we attempted to phone Shadows and were unsuccessful. We tried to call Shadows around seven times between 4-6pm : This was the only time we had available after school Every time either of us phoned we were asked to leave a message and that they would get back to us but we chose not to leave a message as if they phoned back it would have gone to a young inspectors worker phone and we would not have been there to answer it. Even if we weren't part of young inspectors and were genuinely seeking information to help a friend, I would not have left a message as I would not like them to have my name and think it's a bit impersonal. Phoning ChildLine Whilst trying to call the Shadows service and failing to get to speak to anyone, we decided to phone ChildLine as it is a well known organisation and mentioned and suggested by a co-worker. Myself and a colleague phoned ChildLine and we were put on hold for around 5 minutes, this was far too long to be waiting so we hung up. After a few minutes we tried again and decided that we would wait in the queue which put us on hold for 9 minutes or more. They finally answered but unfortunately we couldn't understand what the person was saying because he had a very strong accent. I told the person that I had no idea what they were saying so we were put through to someone who had an easier accent to understand. She asked us to explain the problem and we went by James' case study to explain our 'problem' making sure we didn't give away too much information for example an address. She asked us basic questions such as: Q.) How much alcohol does he consume a day? : A.) = 4-5 Pints per day. Q.)What area are we in? :A.) = Dorset. Q.)What are our main concerns? :A.) = Death She gave us some contact details to help with James' addiction: We weren't told what this number was, however she just told us to ring it. She also gave us the website

4 this site is for people with concerns about alcohol. I looked on the website and found there was a lot of writing which reminded me ofwikipedia. This is because it had lots of sub-headings and explanation of what it is under the sub-heading, but it didn't relate this information to local help that I could access. Overall our conversation lasted around 5 minutes after waiting and we weren't able to get as much information as we would have liked. I would have liked some ideas of local help centres that I could contact and detailed advice about specific things I could do to help James. However, due to it being a national general helpline we didn't expect any specialised information but were hoping it might be offered. Phoning Helpline number I took the advice ChildLine gave me and phoned this number : It rang once and then a man answered - I found this surprising as all the other numbers I have phoned either took ages to answer or didn't even bother to answer. When he answered the phone he sounded friendly and helpful. He said "hello this is National Addiction Helpline, can I help you?" which was good because then I knew who I was speaking to. He asked me very few questions; What is your regional postcode? Have you tried talking to your friend? (I replied yes.) He then seemed to ramble on for quite a few minutes giving me suggestions, which included talking to my friend and also referring him to somewhere more local. He gave me a number to phone and he told me the name of this organisation but I forgot the name straight away. The number he gave me was He said to keep bringing it up in conversation with my friend but to do this gradually, so to mention it at first about two weeks apart and then more frequently. I would do what the helpline suggested as this is more cornmon sense than advice. Phoning further Helpline number I phoned the number that the national addiction helpline had given me ( ) after 5.30pm and I hoped that it would go to answer phone so I would find out who they were. It did go to answer phone but didn't state the name of the organisation. I didn't leave a message for the same reason stated earlier in this report. I will phone again during the daytime so that I will get through to someone. I phoned again at around 12:45 and was asked to phone back in half an hour during a rather abrupt conversation with a mumbling woman. When I phoned back it went straight to answer phone again and in a real life situation I would give up as they have proved to be useless and would seek information elsewhere to help James. Internet Research When we were given the case studies we were told to go about finding information how we normally would if it was a real life situation. I decided not to use the internet as I believe it holds a lot of false information, whereas one of my co-workers decided to use the internet and he found a lot of information. I wouldn't personally look at his information for the reason stated above, and anyone choosing to use information from the internet should be wary because it isn't always truthful and accurate. Seeking advice from a friend I decided to talk to my good friend who is 15. I chose to speak to him and not anyone else as I think he is rather street smart. I asked him what he would do in my situation with James and he said he would find an organisation that could give him a little bit more information about it and then talk to James. I followed this up by asking what organisations he knew about and he said I should

5 go and talk to a certain youth worker we are both familiar with. I had already spoken to the youth worker he mentioned and had already used his advice to contact Shadows. However, as previously mentioned in this report, I couldn't speak to anyone from this organisation at the times I called. I tried to contact Shadows several times and they didn't even answer the phone. One of the other young inspectors had also attempted to contact them and they couldn't get through either. Overall talking to my friend wasn't that helpful as I had already carried out his recommendations and he had no new ones to offer. Asides from speaking to this person, I would talk to another friend but unfortunately he is a fellow young inspector and has the same case study as myself. Conclusion From the information I collected, it was most useful talking to the youth worker as it was friendly advice and it was good as we were actually talking to someone. However, the contact information he supplied was not very useful as we didn't manage to get through to Shadows despite calling several times. I found my experience of phoning helplines quite unsettling as it felt as though I was prankcalling someone all the time. If this wasn't a case study and a real-life situation it would have been easier to phone helplines as I would have first-hand knowledge and feel more genuine. I liked the fact that phoning helplines was anonymous and I wouldn't have wanted to give them any of my personal information even if this wasn't a young inspector project. I found the helplines were generally rubbish and they failed to give out useful information and what I was given was general common-sense advice rather than detailed analysis of the situation at hand. What I really wanted from them were places I could access to get help and advice on how to talk to James and help him deal with his situation. I found it confusing being given different contact numbers by different organisations - I would have preferred to have been given one point of contact and known that this was the only organisation I had to phone for help. In future I would choose to seek advice from the youth worker again as I know him and can trust what he tells me. Otherwise if you follow advice to refer to a local organisation, this would involve James having to go and meet a complete stranger which would be quite daunting for him, rather than coming to the youth centre and talking to someone he knows in a more familiar environment. I found accessing information from people I knew easier than phoning the contact numbers provided for local organisations as it was difficult to get through to actually speak to someone. Recommendations I think it would be better to have one website with one helpline called something like alcohol addiction. The website could have a facility to type in a postcode or town and then get a list of services in your area that could help. There would also be a separate page for specific advice of what to do. Due to the untrustworthiness of information on the internet, this website would need to be endorsed by the NHS and guaranteed to be accurate and reliable. Even though there would be one supreme number to call, it would automatically route you to your nearest help centre who would have a target to answer the phone within an average of two phone rings and staff should work a 11am-7pm shift as this would extend the available times for a younger person to contact them. I generally recommend longer calling hours are needed for local organisations, in particular Shadows, because young people are more likely to phone after school and in the evenings. Help line staff should talk about the different services more slowly and clearly as I found it very

6 confusing when they rambled or mumbled lots of options at me all at once. If a help line tells you to call back within a certain time, they need to make sure someone is there to answer the phone. Help line staff to be better trained and polite. More information on local services to be given out my help line numbers. More practical information on how to help someone like James to be provided by help line numbers; like what to say to him and how to help him deal with the alcohol issue.

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