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6.1.19 Fostering Services, Alcohol, Drugs and Solvents Policy

This chapter was added to the manual in March 2015.


  1. Introduction
  2. Purchasing or Obtaining Drugs or Harmful Substances - General
  3. Alcohol
  4. Solvent Abuse
  5. Controlled and Illicit Drugs and Substances
  6. Ensuring Immediate Welfare of all Person’s within the Fostering Household

1. Introduction

Wirral Council will ensure that Foster Carers and children have access to up to date information, guidance and advice on the risks and strategies that may be adopted in relation to alcohol or other harmful drugs and substances.

If children are known to be at risk of misusing alcohol or other drugs, a clear plan for managing and addressing the risk, including reduction strategies must be included in the child’s Placement Plan and reflected in the Risk Assessment Plan.

2. Purchasing or Obtaining Drugs or Harmful Substances - General

All reasonable measures must be used to reduce or prevent children from obtaining drugs or substances which may harm them.

If it is known or suspected that children are obtaining products which may harm them, whether off the streets, from dealers or traders of any kind, Foster Carers must notify Wirral Fostering Services immediately. Fostering Services will then consult the child or young person’s Social Worker to decide what action should be taken.

3. Alcohol

3.1 Children and Young People

Under no circumstances may a child or young person consume alcohol without the approval, in writing, of the Social Worker and then only on special occasions.

In England and Wales, the law regarding the consumption of alcohol by children under the age of 18 years of age in licensed premises is governed by the Licencing Act 2003. Foster Carers should be aware that despite what the law states in relation to 16 and 17 year olds many placing authorities or parents may have different policies and views relating to Looked After Children.

The Law in England, Scotland and Wales States:

Under 5 years Old

It is illegal to give an alcoholic drink to a child under the age of 5 except in certain circumstances, e.g. under medical supervision.

Under 14 years Old

A young person under 14 cannot go into licensed premises unless they have a ‘children’s certificate’. If it does not have one the child or young person can only go into parts of the licensed premises where alcohol is either sold but not drunk, e.g. an off-licence or a sales point away from a pub, or drunk but not sold, e.g. a garden or family room.

14 & 15 Year Olds

A young person aged 14 or 15 years old can go anywhere in a pub but cannot drink alcohol.

16 or 17 Year Olds

A young person aged 16 or 17 years old can buy, or be bought beer or cider (and wine in Scotland) as an accompaniment to a meal, but not in a bar, i.e. only in an area specifically set aside for meals.

Under 18 years Old

Except for 16 or 17 year olds having a meal, it is against the law for anyone under 18 to buy alcohol in a pub, off licence supermarket or other outlet; or for anyone else to buy alcohol in a pub for someone who is under 18.

Where it becomes evident or if a Foster Carer suspects that a child or young person has misused alcohol, a range of responses should be considered and implemented, as appropriate depending on the severity and extent of the abuse. These options could consist of:

  • Offering the child or young person fluids i.e. water, squash or cordial to ensure they remain hydrated;
  • Regularly checking and monitoring the child or young person to ensure they are not vomiting or in distress, i.e. every 10 minutes. 30 minutes or hourly;
  • Contacting Health Professionals for advice i.e. GP;
  • Taking the child or young person to a Hospital, Accident and Emergency Department. The need for hospitalisation either as a day patient or overnight should be assessed by an appropriately qualified medical professional.

Foster Carers should never simply ignore a child or young person who appears drunk or under the influence of another substance and should always seek advice from a Health Professional if they are unsure about the most appropriate course of action.

3.2 Foster Carers

Foster Carers and their visitors should not consume alcohol in the presence of children, except on special occasions and then the amount consumed should be reasonable.

Once children have gone to bed or are visiting their parents, relatives or friends, Foster Carers and visitors may consume alcohol but should always be in a position to provide appropriate care and respond to emergencies. This may mean that one Foster Carer should abstain from consuming alcohol completely.

As a guide, Foster Carers should be mindful of the consequences of drinking alcohol prior to looking after a child or young person. Performance of day to day tasks, concentration and the ability to drive can be affected the day after drinking. The after effects of drinking could also be bad breath shaking excessive thirst, indigestion and headaches. This may be apparent to children or young people and can have a serious effect on the Foster Carer’s ability to act in a professional manner or to provide safe and effective care.

4. Solvent Abuse

Foster Carers must ensure that aerosols, gas, glue, petrol and similar substances are only used for the purpose they were designed for and that all reasonable measures are taken to restrict their use by children who are known to misuse such substances. This includes ensuring alternatives to aerosols are provided and that such items as glue or gas canisters are locked away.

5. Controlled and Illicit Drugs and Substances

For information regarding the safe storage of medication and drugs within the home see Consent to Medical Treatment in Foster Carer Placements Procedure.

Where there is evidence to suggest that a child or young person has begun misusing drugs of any kind, the Foster Carer should inform the Wirral Fostering Service. Wirral Fostering services will inform the child or young persons’ Social Worker. The Risk Assessment Plan must be updated by relevant professionals and parents, where appropriate. The Plan must take account of the current risk and the strategies that will be used for reducing the potential for any harm to the child or young person.

If a child or young person is found to be under the influence of drugs within the placement, the Foster Carers should seek advice from a Health Professional regarding whether medical intervention is needed and contact the Wirral Fostering Service for advice and support.

Foster Carers should attempt to remove or confiscate any remaining drugs or substances from the child or young person, preferably with their co-operation.

6. Ensuring Immediate Welfare of all Person’s within the Fostering Household

If the child or young person becomes unconscious, begins to fit or convulse or the Foster Carers have any other concerns about their wellbeing, an ambulance should be called and emergency first aid administered. The emergency services should be informed that drug or solvent misuse is suspected.

If a child or young person is displaying erratic, aggressive or violent behaviour as the result of drug, alcohol or substance misuse, the Foster Carers need to act quickly to ensure the welfare of not just the child or young person but for that of themselves and other household members.

Appropriate strategies should be used to reduce or prevent the behaviour and risk to the child and others. If Foster Carers do not feel confident to manage the situation themselves they should contact the Wirral Fostering Service. If the incident takes place out of office hours the Emergency Duty Team should be contacted, who will consult with the Head of Specialist Services, as appropriate.

If there is serious risk of injury to the child or another person or if an assault or other serious crime has been committed, the Foster Carers should do what is necessary to protect themselves and other household members and contact the Police.

No further actions beyond ensuring the welfare and safety of all involved and attempting to confiscate drugs or harmful substances should be taken without consulting the Wirral Fostering Service.