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August 2002

The Deputy Minister for Justice, Dr Richard Simpson MSP, was in Inverness earlier today (Friday 30 August) to launch new services aimed at tackling youth crime and substance misuse in the Highlands The Highland Youth Action Service and Gael Og.

Dr Simpson said: "The link between youth crime and substance misuse has long been recognised and it is only by tackling these issues together that we can make a real impact on the problem. That is why the Scottish Executive announced last year that 2 million would be given to the Highlands over the next 3 years to tackle drug misuse and an additional (Pounds) 400,000 to tackle youth crime.

"The Highland Youth Action Service demonstrates what can be achieved through agencies joining in partnership to tackle the needs of the families and communities affected by crime and drug misuse and I am certain it will make a real impact on the lives of many."   The Highland Youth Action Service has been created by a partnership between The Highland Councils Social Work Service, NHS Highland, Northern Constabulary, NCH Scotland, SACRO, BLAST, Apex Scotland, The Highland Councils Education, Culture and Sport Service and the Scottish Prison Service.

Highland Youth Action Service aims to reduce youth crime and substance misuse by providing;
- an accessible range of prevention, support and treatment facilities for young people in relation to
  substance misuse and youth offending;
- positive alternative choices to substance misuse and youth offending;
- support to children and young people affected by family substance misuse,
  including the safety of children;
- educational alternatives for young people at risk of exclusion;
- access to intensive and specific services for individual young people.

The Highland Youth Action Service is supported by the Joint Committee on Children and Young People and the Highland Drug and Alcohol Action Team.  Highland Councillor Ian Ross, Chairman of the Highland Drug and Alcohol Action Team was delighted that the new service was ready to launch. He said: "This is a great example of agencies joining together to provide a service that is very much needed in the Highlands and which will have a positive effect on vulnerable young people effected by drugs and crime.

"Services and developments are targeted across the spectrum from prevention to treatment. Some are unique services, working with individuals and their families, whilst others are more generic.  "Essential in implementing the new service will be Social Work Youth Action Teams based in Inverness, Alness, Wick and Lochaber. Each of these teams has a Local Service Co-ordinator, a Substance Misuse Worker and a Family Support Worker.  They will be working in partnership with other statutory and voluntary agencies to provide a comprehensive service to children, young people and families."

A key partner in the Highland Youth Action Service is one of Scotlands leading charities, NCH Scotland, which has been working with vulnerable young people in the Highlands since 1994. In that time it has developed a range of innovative services which are helping to reduce youth offending and prevent drug and alcohol dependence.

NCH Scotland took the opportunity today to re-launch all of its youth services in the Highlands under the name GAEL OG which is the gaelic term for Highland youth. NCH Scotland helps young people through its;

- Substance Misuse Referral Scheme which helps drug or alcohol users aged 14-25
  in Inverness, Ross, Cromarty & Skye.
- Intensive Probation Project which works with young people (16-25) who have been in trouble with  
  the law to prevent them falling into a life of crime.
- Intensive Supervision Project which provides intensive, individualised community based programmes 
  for young people (12-17) involved in serious and/ or repeat offending.
- Positive Options Programme which helps to promote and encourage young people (10-16) to become
  involved in sport and leisure activities as an alternative to alcohol and drug misuse.
- Mentoring Project which offers individual support within local communities for young people (12-17)
  who are at risk of, or are misusing drugs. Mentors support, encourage and challenge young people to
  lead drug free lives.

NCH Scotlands Director of Childrens Services Christopher Holmes said: We are delighted to be part of the new Highland Youth Action Service. This will be good for young people because it will provide them with an effective range of services to help prevent them descending into a spiral of addiction and crime.
It will also be good for the Highlands by creating the safer communities we all want.

NCH Scotland looks forward to working with our other partners in this exciting initiative which promises to make a real difference to the lives of young people across the Highlands. Before travelling to Inverness to launch The Highland Youth Action Service and Gael Og, Dr Richard Simpson MSP accepted an invitation to meet representatives of The Highland Council and the Lochaber Drugs and Alcohol Forum in Fort William on Thursday evening.

The group took the opportunity to point out their concerns for the need to increase resources and to have a much better openness of the funding available to tackle the problems of drugs and alcohol amongst young people in Lochaber. People needing help in the area can be 60 to 120 miles away from services such as detoxification and rehabilitation.

After the meeting Dr Richard Simpson said that he fully supported the issues raised, especially for openness and accountability and said that it was important that local groups could express their needs. He also fully supported the decentralization of services and would be discussing the points raised in
Lochaber with the Highland Youth Action Team.