CHILDREN as young as 11 in Bolton have been referred to specialist drug and alcohol treatment services, according to new figures out today.

Statistics released under the Freedom of Information Act show children in Bolton, hardly out of primary school, are being referred by education and children’s services to alcohol and drugs specialists.

In neighbouring Bury, the age of children receiving help was as young as 10, and in Salford it was 13.

A referral can mean the child is vulnerable to drug and alcohol misuse through exposure from a parent or other relative, or could have started abusing themselves.

A Bolton Council spokesman said: “Young people can be referred to specialist services for a number of reasons and not necessarily because they are in need of treatment themselves.

“Our 360 service does a lot of preventative work with young people and referrals can be for information and advice to help them manage circumstances within their family.

“We also do drugs awareness raising in schools and young people can access our services if they wish to find out more about the issues. If we are made aware of a an issue with a young person, then we would refer them to the appropriate specialist service.”

Experts said the most common reason for children to come into contact with drink and drugs is through their parents and prevention is key to heading off misuse among children.