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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 March, 2005, 10:09 GMT
Police fight attention disorder
By Melissa Jackson
BBC News health reporter

Attention disorders must be detected early
The aggressive behaviour associated with attention deficit disorders can sometimes land children in trouble with the law.

Without the right care and treatment these children's lives can be ruined at a tender age.

With this in mind, police in east Lancashire have launched an initiative to help such vulnerable children avoid the risk of getting involved in crime.

Working with health professionals and other experts, they aim to ensure these children get the support they need.

The project is targeting Burnley, Pendle and Colne in east Lancashire.

There are currently 350 children in this area receiving treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), although police believe there could be many others whose condition is undiagnosed.

Their assessment is based on statistics which suggest that 5% of the general population have ADHD - this would equate to 2,300 people in the target area.

If we can treat and identify ADHD we could stop people entering the criminal justice system
Sgt Steve Brown, Lancashire police
The statistics have prompted two community safety officers to spearhead a huge project to ensure children with ADHD are identified at an early stage and receive professional help.

Sergeant Steve Brown said: "Our basic premise is that if we can treat and identify ADHD we could stop people entering the criminal justice system."

They have enlisted the help of professional bodies and individuals including social workers, teachers, mental health services, youth offending teams, young offenders institutes and primary care trusts to ensure a "multi-agency" approach.

Sgt Brown and his colleague Inspector Phil Anderton believe it is the first project of its kind and is breaking new ground.

He said: "We are saying that if professionals are more aware of the issues, ADHD can get treated early and the chances are they won't get to stage two - criminal activity."

Better communication

His colleague Inspector Anderton said: "It's an extremely exciting opportunity to give young people a real chance to achieve their birthright potential.

"A lot of the contact young people have with police is conflict-based and we are trying really hard to change that."

The aim is to improve the way the various agencies work together and encourage better communication between them.

If behavioural difficulties are detected early and children are referred to the right people they have a chance of leading a better life and are likely to keep out of trouble.

This project is putting the fence at the top of the cliff rather than having ambulances waiting at the bottom
Graham Pattinson, East Lancashire CAMHS
Treatment ranges from medication to social support and mentoring by trained volunteers.

East Lancashire Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are heavily involved in the project.

CAMHS has recruited extra staff to help with the project, including an educational psychologist, an ADHD nurse and a clinical psychologist.

East Lancashire CAMHS inter-agency development manager Graham Pattinson said: "We are now working on our structure for a true multi-agency care pathway (MACPATH), but we want to sharpen up our diagnostic skills and our responses.

"This project is putting the fence at the top of the cliff rather than having ambulances waiting at the bottom."

The National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service (ADDISS) welcomes the scheme.

ADDISS director Andrea Bilbow said: "I think it's a very important project.

"It's recognising that ADHD is a legitimate condition, a chronic condition and a very serious public problem and that it has to be tackled from all sides.

"The earlier we treat children with this condition, the better their development is going to be."

The project will be evaluated by the University of Central Lancashire in Preston.

If successful, the team hopes the scheme could be adopted across Lancashire and the rest of the country.

Mothers' plea for behaviour help
20 Feb 04 |  Education

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