Scale of substance misuse among adolescents in residential care revealed

Young people in residential care need better support to overcome a range of challenges, Cardiff University academics say.

The survey of school students aged 11 to 16 shows young people in residential care had the lowest mental wellbeing score, more than half (56%) had been exposed to bullying recently and nearly three quarters (74%) were involved in fighting in the past year.

This group also had less positive feelings about school. These factors have been shown to be associated with risk of substance misuse.

Indeed, more than a third (36%) of young people in residential care say they have been drunk in the past 30 days, the research shows. This figure is compared to just 9% of young people not in care. A quarter (26%) of adolescents in residential placements said they smoke weekly in contrast to 3% of those who live at home.

Professor Simon Murphy, of the Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), said: “The most striking findings from this study are the disadvantages young people in residential care face compared to those elsewhere in the care system and in stark contrast to those living outside it.

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