News item

Campaigner against substance abuse calls for more support

A photo opportunity of Barbara Skinner receiving her Hero Award is set to take place at 12.30pm on Thursday 26th June at the TSI Conference at Bournemouth International Centre.

A mother whose son died after inhaling the contents of an aerosol can has called on the government to invest more money to help Trading Standards professionals prevent further deaths.

Barbara Skinner MBE will be honoured at the Trading Standards Institute's (TSI) Annual Conference in Bournemouth on June 26 for the work she has done surrounding Volatile Substance Abuse (VSA).

Barbara, a nurse by profession, set up Solve It in 1989 following the death of her 16-year-old son Darren in 1988.

Since then, the charity, which is based in Kettering, Northamptonshire, has continually provided VSA education, training, and awareness for parents, professionals, the community and children and young people at a local and national level.

TSI is recognising the work Solve It has done with Northamptonshire County Council Trading Standards with a special Hero Award, which will be presented to Barbara by Ron Gainsford, chief executive of TSI, at the Bournemouth International Centre.

Barbara said: 'Northamptonshire County Council Trading Standards has been very supportive of Solve It and I don't think the charity would have developed as quickly as it has without their Officers' assistance.

'A lot of retailers are unaware of the type of products that can be abused so it is vital for us to carry on our training with Trading Standards' support.

'I would like to see the government put more money into Trading Standards so Officers can carry out more test purchasing and provide more training for retailers on the legislation that is in place.'

Brandon Cook, TSI lead officer for age restricted sales, said: 'Additional funding from the government would be welcome as it would enable us to carry out more enforcement including test purchasing of products which have an age restriction in place, and we could invest more time and effort into giving traders advice and guidance.

'We would also be able to increase the amount of consumer education around the subject. This is vital because often parents do not recognise when their child is abusing volatile substances until it is too late.

'Most households will have between 20 and 30 products in their cupboards which can be abused. It is important for parents to be aware of this, especially if they start to notice that products are going missing or they are getting through more than usual of a particular product.'

Carol Gamble, Community Safety Manager at Northamptonshire County Council Trading Standards, said: 'We have been working with Barbara and Solve It for over 10 years.

'In 2002 we carried out an undercover test purchase exercise with a 16-year-old to see if major supermarkets would sell her cigarette lighter refills. All nine of the retailers we visited sold the girl the refills, despite the legal age for purchase being 18.

'Following this, we worked with Solve It to carry out retailer training. Trading Standards, Solve It and the Northamptonshire Drug and Alcohol Action Team have also worked together to promote further retailer awareness sessions and radio campaigns. Our most recent test purchasing exercises have not resulted in any sales, which is a positive step forward, but we recognise that the problem does still exist.'

Some of the many household products that can be abused include lighter fuels, deodorant, hair spray, nail varnish, marker pens, petrol and shoe polish.

Latest statistics show that Volatile Substance Abuse kills at least one person every week and it kills more children and young people aged between 10 and 15 than all illegal drugs put together.

Solveit Online

Notes to Editors

The national Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference 2008, organised by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) - a 'must' for consumer journalists! The TSI-hosted annual Conference and Exhibition is the leading consumer affairs and trading standards event in Europe.

Conference 2008 is being held at Bournemouth International Centre from Tuesday 24 to Thursday 26 June. The conference press office will be open from 8am on Monday 23 June (the day before the event starts) until 2pm on Thursday 26 June.

Journalists and photographers are welcome to attend but should contact the press office on 0845 608 9430 to arrange passes.

The conference is hosted by TSI chairman Bryan Lewin.

Almost 2,000 people are attending the conference, including representatives from local and central government and those interested in fair trading, representatives of business and commerce, together with consumer organisations. This makes it an ideal place for consumer affairs journalists to mingle and make contacts!

Trading Standards Institute

The Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.

Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.

TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.

They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.