Congress I am here today to ask you to support our call for an urgent NATIONAL REVIEW into psychotropic drugs, such as Ritalin, with school aged children.
We are concerned that not enough is known about the long term effects of such powerful drugs on the development of children’s brains.
We receive increased numbers of reports from our members that children with behavioural difficulties are being prescribed drugs without full discussions with other professionals to see if other strategies/approaches could be used instead of, or at least alongside, the medication.
Very often these drugs are administered to the children by support staff in school and we share the concerns expressed by the GMB about the responsibilities placed upon their members in this respect.
We fear that the drugs are being seen as a “quick fix”.
Behaviours develop over a long period of time, often with a range of complex causes; we can’t “cure” the behaviours we don’t like with a quick fix of medicine. They usually require careful management by all the adults around the child.
In 2013 we’re expecting new criteria for the definition of mental illness to be adopted here in the UK. These criteria will lead to many more children being diagnosed as mentally ill, based on reports of their behaviours.
A shy child could be diagnosed with social anxiety; a sad or temporarily withdrawn child could be diagnosed with depression.
These are conditions which are also likely to be treated with medication – and under these circumstances, Congress, we will be putting potent drugs into children with little or no understanding of what it will lead to.
In a society that wants quick results using drugs to improve behaviour is very tempting. But there can be other ways of improving children’s behaviour which typically involve time and energy from people.
Simply relying on medication in isolation is no solution; we must foster a more collaborative approach to the treatment of school-aged children with conditions such as ADHD.
We should ensure that teachers, school support staff, educational psychologists and healthcare professionals are involved alongside the parents and doctors to try to develop consistent approaches and support for the children.
Consistent approaches and support that are not solely reliant on medication, or on increasing the dosage of more tablets at the start of the day when the drugs don’t work, but those that involve all the adults who work with the child and utilise all the skills and resources which they have. The bottom line is that this approach must answer a single question: what will work best for this child and the people around them and will lead to long term health and well being?
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance on the use of psychotropic drugs with children
It believes that there is no need to review that guidance…
It says that they don’t have the evidence to review the guidance …
They don’t have evidence because the Department of Health doesn’t collect the data…
We have evidence that the current guidance is not being followed. For example, children under 6 are being prescribed the drugs but there is no monitoring of such practice.
If we fail to review our practices we run the risk of even more children being prescribed with drugs whose long term effects are not categorically known to us.
We run the risk of committing children to long term drug use and of committing the long term spending of public money to increase the profits of pharmaceutical companies, public money which could go some way towards funding more adults being available to work directly with children.
Congress, I urge you to support this motion to instigate a full and urgent review into the use of psychotropic drugs with school aged children and into the long term effects of the use of these drugs.
Congress, I move.
PASSED OVERWHELMINGLY AT NOON ON THE 13TH SEPTEMBER 2011.
WELL DONE KATE THE GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO LISTEN TO THE AEP, BPS, GMB, NUT AND NOW THE TUC CONGRESS.