Social Work’s Role in Youth Alcohol and Drug Services

in youth alcohol and drugs services is crucial. Social work practise enables and introduces coherent and cohesive approaches to the youth AOD sector. Statistics show Across Australia there is an increase in young people misusing and abusing substances such as alcohol, tobacco, stimulant, depressant, hallucinogen, illicit and prescribe drugs. The survey of 3634 young people aged between 12 to 25 revealed that 92 per cent have drunk alcohol and 34 per cent have taken drugs in the last two months Head space. Given these statistics and evidence based approach share the impotent of social work frameworks within youth AOD services to reduce substance misuse and based on principles of: youth engagement and participation, social justice, partnerships and collaboration, and inclusion. In this report I will be discussing the area of social work, youth AOD, that interest me and the legal context in which it exists.

Youth AOD is a critical subject within Australia and across the world. There is a dramatic increase in the underlying factors that contribute to alcohol and drug use. For example: Family and domestic violence, separation, homelessness, intergeneration alcohol and drug use, mental health issues, legal issues, social and pollical issues etc. This area interest me as a social worker due to fact it offers an earlier intervention in supporting young people to give an opportunity to empower and create positive change within there lives. Statistics show an increase of AOD use within young people within Australia Substance use in young people exists on a spectrum of levels of use, and the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey identified frequent levels of alcohol use among some young people. Use of pharmaceuticals for non-medical reasons by young people was lower, with 2.3 per cent of 14-17-year olds and one in twenty young people in the older age groups reporting usage in the previous year. In relation to tobacco smoking, 3.8 per cent of teenagers (12-17-year-olds) reported smoking tobacco and 2.5 per cent smoked daily. Those in higher age groups reported smoking at much higher rates. While daily use was rare, about a fifth to a quarter of young people drank in a manner that was categorised as single-occasion risky use at least once a month. That is, more than four standard drinks in a row. About one-fifth to a quarter of young people had used an illicit drug (usually cannabis) in the previous year. Use was generally more common among males than females.

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Social Work’s Role in Youth Alcohol and Drug Services
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a significant role within the youth AOD sector and are overseen by ethical and legal standards. State and commonwealth government bodies govern these legal standards to ensure professionals work within a social justice and human rights framework. Furthermore, from a organisational level social workers are governed through policy and procedures that provide legal and ethical approaches to ensure appropriate and purposeful service delivery.

Social work practise offers an integrated approach sees various factors and pathways into and out of problematic AOD use by young people. The key social work principles include:

  • harm minimisation
  • human rights
  • respect
  • safety
  • non-discrimination
  • developmental appropriateness
  • strength-based
  • holistic view of health and wellbeing
  • social justice
  • accessibility
  • youth participation
  • collaboration and partnerships
  • professional development
  • evaluation and research
  • evidence-based approaches
  • sustainability

By law there are some diverse number policies that guide services in appropriate and effective service provision to young people. These include the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates the right of every young person to receive a health service. The purpose of this Framework is to provide AOD services, health services, with a clear perception and principles to work on with young people who are experiencing substance misuse. Additionally, youth are a diverse population in which they play different roles and have many different responsibilities. There are different frameworks which constitute the such as mental health or offending behaviours. Therefore, it is important that a social worker completes relevant bio-psychosocial assessments to determine decisions made about specific young people and course of treatment. For example: a young person from a CALD community who has experienced on going abuse may need support from community leaders to ensure the right course of action is taken. This is known as cultural sensitivity and awareness.

Social work practise within the youth AOD sector is governed by polices that ensure ethical practises and ethical guidelines. NSW Health is committed National Drug Strategy 2010-2015 this framework is an action on alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. The purpose of this approach is to achieve harm minimisation and the three pillars of demand reduction, supply reduction and harm reduction need to be balanced and sensitive to age and stage of life. It is underpinned by the development of a qualified workforce, maintaining, and improving the evidence base, monitoring performance, and enhancing governance (National Drug Strategy 2010-2015)

Equity of service delivery to young people with emerging drug problems (NSW Youth Health Policy 2011-2016) To encourage and support young people to achieve optimal health and wellbeing, to ensure young people experience the health system as positive, respectful, supportive, and empowering, and to achieve positive outcomes for young people that are organisationally effective and early intervention and are delivered efficiently and effectively. (NSW Drug and Alcohol Plan 2006-2010) This policy is support by social values relating to holistic, evidence and strength based approaches, social justice and invention.

Within youth AOD work social workers are obliged to work as mandatory reporters to ensure child protection. State Plan Keep Them Safe A Shared Approach to Child Wellbeing 2009-2014 To improve the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. This policy ensures that social workers are supporting children and families to support children and families in the community and prevent children from entering the child protection system and a streamlined statutory child protection system focusing on children at greatest risk. (Child Wellbeing and Child Protection Policies and Procedures for NSW Health 2014) The policy guides Local Health Districts and to implement the responsibilities of NSW Health under the NSW Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection Act 1998 and the Child Wellbeing and Child Protection)

The Policy and procedures shape social work practise, as we can see on the Youth Mental Health Services Model, described in the NSW Community Mental Health Strategy, was developed to meet the needs of young people aged 14 to 24 years. The mode is based on early intervention for social workers and to ensure that when young people access a service they feel safe, not being judged, holistic, flexible, confidential and comprehensive. AOD social workers practising within a service need to have a multidisciplinary team to work on and address complex issues, including drug and alcohol use.

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