Project that reduced teenage drinking and drug taking in Iceland trialled in Dundee

There are currently six pilot areas in Scotland taking part in the Planet Youth initiative.

A project that reduced teenage drinking and drug taking in Iceland has been trialled in Dundee.

Inspired by the pioneering Icelandic Planet Youth initiative, S3 and S4 pupils from four secondary schools in the city have taken part in a survey aimed at helping to shape improvements to children’s lives.

It is aimed at helping to focus efforts to improve young people’s health, wellbeing and relationships.

The Icelandic capital Reykjavik has a similar population to Dundee.

Around 25 years ago, it had a similar problem with drink and drugs. Furthermore, in 1998, 42% of teenagers in Iceland were regularly drinking.

More than two decades on, that figure has dropped dramatically to around 6%.

Youngsters in Iceland were given free access to activities like sport, music and drama. But the success started with a simple, anonymous survey of school pupils.

Zahra Hedges, CEO of the charity Winning Scotland said: “We are delighted to be working with Dundee City Council and their partners on this approach, which focuses on using insight from teenagers to help create better environments for younger children to grow up in.

“Similar approaches in Iceland and elsewhere have led to a huge and sustained reduction in risk taking behaviour, and an increase in young people feeling healthier, happier and safer.

“This pilot is an important part of ensuring that this approach will work for children and families here in Scotland too.”

In 2023, the Scottish Government invested £1.5m over two years in Planet Youth in Scotland to test the model and build capacity for using data insight to drive preventative action locally. 

Dundee is currently one of six pilot areas in the country.

Kirsty Small, headteacher at St Paul’s RC Academy told STV News: “The reason it’s going to make such a change is (that) young people are going to feel heard and that’s what’s important.

“They will feel that they’re part of the change, that they’re leading that change and that they are in fact going to be the policy makers.”

Councillor Stewart Hunters, the council’s children, families and communities convener said: “The council and other agencies are using this data to focus efforts on how we can increase protective factors for these young people and reduce risks for them.

“I am pleased to see that Dundee’s strong partnerships are well represented at this event and that our pupils’ voices are being heard.

“They are the future of this city, and we need to support them in the face of the many challenges of life today.

“I know that the organisations involved in this Planet Youth event are committed to doing all they can to help our young people.”  

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