Craig Whittaker, outreach worker, Young Addaction Liverpool

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Craig Whittaker brings drug and alcohol awareness to young people.

What do you do?

My job involves going into schools, youth clubs and the community to bring drug and alcohol awareness to young people, to help them to make their own decisions. Our message is about the safe use of drugs and alcohol, and we make young people aware of where to go for help if they need it. It's all confidential and we don't preach to them.

How did you come to work in this area?

I did a degree in criminology and then had a job as a support worker in a hostel. A lot of those young people had drug issues but there was no support for them. They were simply told to go to their GP, which is not ideal. This job came up and I was excited about working with the biggest drug and alcohol treatment service in the UK and about delivering group work.

How do you make a difference?

By being positive and being able to relate to young people. I'm only 23 myself, so I have similar interests in sport, TV and music, and that helps me break down the initial barriers. It's about encouraging them to share their experiences and have an open discussion, and realise there are others like them. A lot of young people are happy with their drug use, so we provide harm reduction advice. It's unrealistic to say "don't do drugs".

What challenges do you face?

Young people can be insular and find it difficult to open up to outsiders coming to talk to them about such personal issues. You have to get to know them first, which could mean playing football together or just talking to them. Getting to work with organisations that see drugs in more black and white terms can also be an issue.

What's rewarding about your job?

You get to see massive changes in young people when you work with them. They realise that they have a choice and there are people who can support them. You can watch someone who has no goals or interest in education then move into college and take control of their life again.

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