Putting a finger on success

Parmjit Chahal, head of children’s access at Harrow Council, explains how a quick, dignified new fingerprint drug test is proving important in building a more open, trusting relationship with parents.

Harrow children’s services, like many local authorities, work hard to identify parental drug use at an early stage in order to encourage and support parents into drug treatment, maximising successful abstinence and improving their chances of continuing to care for their children wherever safe to do so.

Daily testing has proved to be highly successful in engaging parents – particularly when there is proven knowledge or reasonable suspicion of them being under the influence of drugs when responsible for children, something that could potentially impact their ability to care for those children.

The fingerprint test is quick to administer, non-intrusive, provides immediate results and, given the challenges faced by children’s services' budgets, is relatively inexpensive when compared with other forms of drug testing and therefore can be cost effective. What is also important to acknowledge is that the response from parents has been overwhelmingly positive, with more parents seeking early help and voluntarily disclosing drug use.

We’re always focused on the best interests of children, young people and their families, and our goal is to help more children stay safely at home with their families. Our approach works best when it is transparent, and that wasn’t always easy to achieve with traditional drug testing approaches such as the hair strand test method. With Intelligent Fingerprinting’s easy-to-use fingerprint-based testing, however, we’re able to be much more open about the process.

Previously we had to use traditional drug testing methods such as urine, hair and blood tests that were much more intrusive, required separate testing procedures, and frequently involved waiting for results. Given that we’re trying to work with parents to help turn their lives around, these processes often came across as authoritarian and discouraging for the people being tested.

Results available in 10 minutes

Intelligent Fingerprinting’s solution features a small, tamper-evident drug screening cartridge onto which 10 fingerprint sweat samples are collected, in a process which takes less than a minute. The Intelligent Fingerprinting portable analysis unit then reads the cartridge and provides a presumptive positive or negative result on-screen for all drugs in the test within 10 minutes.

The fingerprint-based method is better in every way than conventional drug testing. It allows people to indicate they’re drug free, with no fuss, in ten minutes flat. And from the council’s perspective, the reasonable cost of the system means we don’t have to think twice about whether to test or not. Additionally, the ability to produce screening results quickly means we can provide parents with the assurance and satisfaction of demonstrating that they are potentially drug-free. This helps our social workers to build more trust with parents, and ultimately work to improve the success rate of people overcoming addiction.

Fingerprint technology is working well for Harrow Council because it is early intervention, non-invasive and great at allowing us to work more closely with parents. While it’s too early to be specific about how many families have been kept together as a result of this approach, we certainly see it as helping the council to improve the success rate of those people who are working to overcome addiction while still safely caring for their children.

Those parents who have already engaged with the test have given us positive feedback and, even when a test comes back showing recent drug use, the immediacy of the fingerprint test method means that we can engage with the issue together right away which is what we’re here to do. It’s also convenient as we can do the tests at the council office, without the need for specialist medical staff or collection areas.


Tw: @harrow_council

W: www.harrow.gov.uk


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