CHILDREN as young as 10 have been referred to drug and alcohol treatment services in Monmouthshire a probe has revealed.

Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly saw children as young as 11 referred.

Using freedom of information laws, the Press Association found children as young as four years old in Scotland were among hundreds of youngsters being referred to specialist drug and alcohol treatment services in the UK.

A referral can mean the child is vulnerable to drug and alcohol misuse through exposure from a parent or other relative, as was the case with the four year old in South Ayrshire, or could have started abusing substances themselves.

Children are most commonly referred for treatment by education providers or youth offending teams.

Andrew Brown, director of programmes at charity Mentor UK, which works to protect children from drug and alcohol misuse, said he was shocked at the findings of the Press Association investigation.

Mr Brown, a member of the Supervisory Board of the European Society for Prevention Research, said: "We think it is vital that alcohol and drug education improve. Our own survey of teachers suggests that at the moment delivery is inconsistent, and that the norm is to timetable only one or two sessions a year.

"This may sound sufficient, but evidence would suggest that longer programmes that systematically build skills and values are much more likely to prevent young people from coming to harm than one-off lessons."

Steve McCabe, shadow minister for children and families, said he was "shocked" by the findings.

Mr McCabe was a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee when it called for a royal commission to examine UK drug policy.

"This would certainly tend to suggest that the Government's current strategy towards drugs isn't working and seems to support the findings of last year's inquiry by the Home Affairs Select Committee," he said.