Helping to Keep Children Safe

For more than 165 years, Hope UK (formerly Band of Hope) have been providing high-quality drug education and life-skills training to children and young people in schools, youth clubs, churches and other groups. Their aim is to equip every young person in the UK with the knowledge and skills they need to make drug-free choices.

Their work is delivered by highly trained, locally based volunteers. Selected from local churches, volunteer educators lead interactive, fun, and effective sessions – both formal and informal. Sessions and activities include information about drugs, alongside learning skills including peer-resistance, decision making, healthy relationships, resilience, and communication.

Young people in the UK today are sadly likely to be offered drugs – at school, university or when out with friends. A study by UCL into Generation Z has shown that 31% of young people had tried cannabis and 10% had tried harder drugs by age 17. More than half (53%) had engaged in binge drinking, 45% had tried a cigarette, while 12% were regular smokers at age 17.

There has been a gradual increase of the use of most drugs amongst school age pupils over the last few years*, and use of nitrous oxide and some of the new psychoactive substances have also increased recently.

There are many reasons for this increase, but one contributory factor may be the cut in available drug prevention education for young people since 2009. Hope UK aims to increase that provision by recruiting and training more volunteers throughout the UK.

Hope UK’s CEO, Sarah Brighton, says,

Many young people have found the pandemic challenging, and we are concerned that some will turn to drug use – either to let off steam, or to help cope with anxieties about their future. Without help, some may end up starting behaviours they will find hard to stop. We have already heard stories of young people returning to university using a wide variety of substances as they meet up with friends.

Hope UK needs more people to train to become volunteer educators and help children and young people in their local communities. If you think you might be able to help, look at their website. Volunteer training takes place partly online, but mostly over four residential weekends, where volunteers learn about drugs, and how to deliver drug prevention activities. Topics include safeguarding, health and safety, communication, planning, and leading sessions, managing groups, how people learn, and much more. Once trained, volunteers are supported by Hope UK to work with local groups. Some volunteers concentrate on working with adults, parents, and youth workers for example – helping them learn how to help and support their children.

To get an idea of what Hope UK offers, visit the resources section of their website.  There are resources aimed at families, at churches and youth workers. E-learning modules are available free for anyone who wants to know a bit more about drugs and related issues. If volunteering isn’t for you, but you think your church or youth group could do with a session, you can book a Hope UK speaker there, too.

Sarah Brighton said:

Our voluntary drug educators are the backbone of our work.

They amaze me with their dedication and ability. Much of what we now do has been developed by former and current volunteers. They bring their own knowledge and experience to Hope UK. Our volunteers include teachers, medical staff, social workers, students, retired people, parents, former drug users (and those who have never taken a drug ever!) – all kinds of backgrounds and skills. You don’t have to have relevant skills, because we are happy to train you and help you learn – you just need to be brave and have time!

One volunteer said:

I am all about people feeling safe, and Hope UK helps young people do that by being more informed about the potential risk of using drugs.

Another volunteer said:

It has been a privilege to be trained by Hope UK, and my desire is to reach 10,000 children and parents myself, as I have personally seen the pain and suffering that drugs cause. Education is one way of helping those young people make drug-free choices. We at Hope UK are committed to doing this.

While the volunteers are vital to increasing opportunities for young people throughout the UK to access high-quality drug education, they also benefit from the experience. As well as the satisfaction they get from the work they do with groups, and the opportunities for networking and making friends, skills gained can help the volunteers themselves .

Former volunteer said:

I doubt I would have done Open University and have had this job without your encouragement on the training course a few years before that.

Book the courses at:

Hope UK is a Christian drug education charity. We have been equipping young people to make drug-free choices for more than 165 years. Our team of highly trained, locally based volunteer educators offer drug education and life-skill sessions for young people aged 5-25. As well as age-appropriate health education, our educators help young people develop transferable life skills – including peer resistance skills, confidence building and managing stress.

* Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among young people 2018 (published August 2019)

Written by: Sarah Brighton

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