Peterborough City Council has become the first local authority in the UK to fully adopt fingerprint-based drug testing as part of its family safeguarding social care policy.
The Intelligent Fingerprinting portable drug testing system detects drug use through fingerprint sweat analysis. The council adopted the system to encourage service users to abstain from drug use and to adhere to family court custody conditions or social care child protection arrangements.
Peterborough’s safeguarding teams work with locals who have a history of drug abuse that may impair their ability to look after children in their care. The council said that people who use the service have been “very positive” about the test because of its non-invasive nature and that it was “good for building trust and transparency”.
The test 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 positive or negative result on-screen for all drugs in the test in 10 minutes.
Previously, clients were required to visit a special clinic for drug testing – introducing delays and discouraging some people from engaging with the Family Safeguarding teams, the council said.
Jo Foster, head of service for family safeguarding at the council, said: “With sample collection in seconds and results in 10 minutes, the immediacy of the fingerprint-based drug testing approach certainly makes for much more informed and engaged client meetings.
“There is also a significant efficiency saving across the process, as results can be shared more quickly with third party agencies as required – enabling a much more collaborative working process between the council, social workers and representatives of the family court.
“We’re finding that being able to complete tests and share results during meetings really helps in terms of building trust, while removing the requirement to conduct traditional urine, blood or saliva tests separately also makes the process much more transparent.”
Harrow Council, in London, has also conducted trials of the technology, which is expected to be adopted by more local authorities next year.