Youngsters' Amsterdam trip defended

A GROUP of teenagers from an Essex town are getting ready to jet off to Amsterdam to examine the way the city tackles the issues of drugs, alcohol and sexual health.

Elliot Furniss

A GROUP of teenagers from an Essex town are getting ready to jet off to Amsterdam to examine the way the city tackles the issues of drugs, alcohol and sexual health.

The “Dunmow Goes Dutch” scheme has seen 20 youngsters engage in a series of workshops with experts on the three areas.

Representatives from Essex Police, Uttlesford Primary Care Trust and the Essex Young People's Drug and Alcohol Service have all visited the town's youth centre to talk through the subjects and provide information.

Armed with this new found knowledge, the 14 to 16-year-olds have been taking to the streets to survey the public and develop a broader picture of just how well-informed the community is.

Later this month the group will travel to Amsterdam, famed for its red-light area and coffee shops where customers can sit and smoke cannabis.

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The three-day fact finding mission will be a chance to compare first hand the different ways Britain and Holland treat the three subjects.

Youth worker Linda Barnes, who is the driving force behind the scheme, said: “Holland has the lowest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe whereas in the UK we are approaching the worst.

“The same is true of drugs and alcohol. The UK's problems with binge drinking are well publicised, but in Holland it is nowhere near as bad.

“The whole idea is to look at how Britain and Holland deal with the issues, compare the two and see if there is anything we can learn from one another.”

Upon their return the youngsters will share the results of their research with the police and the PCTs as well as their peers at other youth centres across the county.

Simon Walsh, Essex County Council's cabinet member for schools, children and families, said: “Essex does not suffer to the same extent as other parts of the UK from problems related to drugs, alcohol and sexual health.

“However, we are determined to get even better and schemes such as this demonstrate our commitment in that regard.”

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