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Effective Interventions Unit - Working with young people: A profile of projects funded by the Partnership Drugs Initiative


Working with young people: A profile of projects funded by the Partnership Drugs Initiative

Aberdeen Families First Initiative
  • Project aims and objectives

This project is directed at families with children aged 0-13 whose adult members are affected by problematic drug use. The project is a collaboration between three agencies: Drugs Action, Primrosehill Family Centre and Richmondhill House. Drugs Action provides services to adult drug users and their families, Primrosehill Family Centre provides interventions and resources for families with children up to 12 years of age, and Richmondhill House is a residential unit for families with children up to the age of 13. Overall, the project is characterised by a holistic approach that aims to address the wider circumstances and dynamics of the family and not just its drug use.

  • Project start date

Formally started in February 2002 and began taking clients on a regular basis in June 2002.

  • Staffing

The project employs a worker in each of these three agencies (though in the case of Drugs Action the post is shared between two staff) together with a co-ordinator based at Drugs Action. Three of the five staff are qualified social workers; the remainder have between them qualifications in community education, addiction studies and counselling as well as previous experience of drug work.

  • Geographical coverage

The project aims to serve the Aberdeen City area.

  • Setting for project work

Work takes place largely on-site at each of the three agencies while group activities such as swimming or stress management takes place at one of the family centres. Workers also undertake home visits and may meet clients (especially adults) at more local venues as needed.

  • Characteristics of client group

The project is directed at families with children aged 0-13 whose adult members are affected by problematic drug use. It is thus directed at both the parent users who agree to participate (one parent may not agree e.g. absent father) and at young people whose lives are affected by the drug use of their parents rather than their own substance use. Such children may be on the At Risk register.

  • Client profile

As of 31 July, 32 families with 47 children had been referred to the project. Of these, 7 families containing 9 children were not accepted. The statistics below refer to those 25 families with 38 children that were accepted.

The age profile of the children in the families is illustrated in Figure 10.

Figure 10


The gender profile of the clients is as follows:-





All clients were from a white background and none were disabled. A lone parent headed sixteen families, nine were two parent families.

Thirteen families received services from Drugs Action and Primrosehill Family Centre, nine from Drugs Action and Richmondhill House. (Information was unavailable for three families.)

Of the 17 families whose case had been closed by 31 July the reasons for closure were as follows:-



Referred on




Move away


(Completed includes 1 family where 1 individual family only was referred on.)

  • Client assessment and data collection

The programme of actions for each family is developed after the application of a range of assessment tools (e.g. SCODA, Parenting Hassles Scale) and then agreed with the family.

  • Intervention details

Whilst the family is the client, the service is not offered as family therapy but as a holistic intervention addressing the individual needs of family members. The specific programme of services and activities in which a family engages is tailored to its specific needs. It may include one to one cognitive behavioural counselling on drug misuse with parents with a view to securing harm reduction for the children. The project also encourages the development of individual parenting and household skills, and participation in group activities - such as swimming or stress management - with other families. Individual approaches with children include methods such as 'Life story' or use play materials to explore their experience and feelings. It is commonly an intensive intervention and is expected to last between nine and twelve months.

  • Referrals

Referrals are accepted to Families First when the family require a service from two or more of the partner agencies. The pattern of referrals to the project is illustrated in Figure 11.

Figure 11