Research type 
Year of report 

Summary of findings

  • Contrary to findings of previous research it emerged that many Vulnerable Young People (VYP) live at home with their families and have similar patterns of leisure activities and media consumption to other teenagers. It therefore seems likely that, with the exception of the homeless and sex workers, most VYP will be as likely as other teenagers to see the FRANK campaign in a wide variety of media settings.
  • The research also reveals, however, that a lot of vulnerable young people spend a disproportionate amount of time outdoors. They congregate with other VYP on street corners, in parks, on waste ground, at bus stops and on railway stations. This is particularly true of VYP when they first start exhibiting behavioural problems like truanting and start experimenting with drugs. This suggests that the use of outdoor and transportation advertising sites would also be necessary in order to maximise the campaign viewing opportunities for this audience.
  • Whilst most of the participants welcomed the tone and content of FRANK campaign materials most felt that they already had direct local access to information and support about drugs.
  • The categories of vulnerable young people which have been identified in Government policy documents are not discrete groups. They share many common characteristics and exhibit multiple reasons for being considered 'at risk'.
  • The signs are that the 'at risk' status of vulnerable young people where drug-taking is concerned starts at a much younger age than for the general population.


Overall, the findings of this research suggest that FRANK's relevance for vulnerable young people would be increased if the following factors were taken into account:

  • Recognition that outreach workers attached to NGOs are often the first point of contact when vulnerable young people start experimentation with drugs and that they need material they can distribute involving local contact phone numbers/addresses for youth workers and clubs
  • Experimentation with drugs and problematic behaviour starts at a younger age amongst vulnerable groups and communications need to take account of the fact that some children aged 8-11 may require the type of information and support normally associated with older children
  • The tone of voice used in communications aimed specifically at vulnerable young people should be warm and friendly but less flippant than in the mainstream FRANK campaign
  • The scenarios in VYP communications should ideally reflect the type of stresses and pressures which VYP face living in socially-disadvantaged communities.
  • Appreciation of the fact that FRANK's role for VYP groups is more likely to involve referral to face-to-face services for crisis intervention and long-term support, than is the case of mainstream teenagers where a telephone service, website and written publications will generally suffice.

Research objectives


The research was designed to explore the views of a cross-section of vulnerable young people with a view to:

  • Identifying their specific needs in relation to information, advice and support in connection with the use of Class A drugs
  • Exploring their media consumption in order to provide guidance on the most appropriate media channels for communications
  • Testing the current FRANK campaign strategy and highlighting any major gaps which need to be bridged from the outset in order for the brand to gain basic acceptance amongst vulnerable young people
  • Providing some initial guidelines for a communications brief on delivery against vulnerable groups.



FRANK, launched in May 2003, is a Government drugs communications campaign aimed primarily at young people aged 11-18 years and their parents and carers. Preliminary research was conducted in November 2002 with a broad cross-section of young people and their parents/carers and with stakeholders involving exposure of some advertising concepts intended for use as part of the campaign. As a result of this it emerged that there was a requirement for more in depth, targeted research with key vulnerable groups.

Two subsequent stages of research were planned:

Stage 1 Exploratory qualitative research designed to investigate where the information needs and support required by VYP differ from those of other young people and the extent to which the current mainstream strategy may have gaps which need to be filled to improve delivery to VYP.

Stage 2 Planned as a more thorough investigation of the specific drugs information and support required by vulnerable young people, the aim being to develop an evidence base on which future communications and support services can be built. Information provided in this report constitutes stage one of the planned research

Research participants


Seven key vulnerable categories of young people were involved;

  • Care leavers
  • Young offenders
  • Homeless living in hostels
  • School excludees/truants
  • Children of drug takers
  • Refugees
  • Sex workers

Audience Summary





General population. One group of refugees




Social Class


Not specified


Data collection methodology

Depth interviews
Focus groups

Other data collection methodology


The research employed a qualitative methodology and the sample comprised 24 focus groups and 4 in-depth interviews.

Sample size


Total of 188 young people divided into groups as detailed in methodology section

Detailed region


Fieldwork was conducted in the following areas:

  • Thamesmead/Abbey Wood
  • Northampton
  • Bexley/Slade Green
  • Nottingham
  • Kings Cross
  • Salford
  • Soho/West End
  • Liverpool
  • Oxford
  • Portsmouth

Fieldwork dates


10th February to 13th March 2003

Agree to publish





This report is classified as sensitive as it deals with vulnerable young people.

Research agency

Front Line

COI Number


Report format