Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

‘What works’ to tackle alcohol-related disorder?

Via Alcohol Policy I’ve come across a paper looking at what appears to be effective in reducing alcohol related disorder based on work done in London.  It’s exclusively focused on enforcement activities so a bit outside our normal scope, but still of interest.

In terms of young people the paper says:

Disorder connected to under age drinking was the least frequently reported alcohol-related disorder issue with less than a third (30%) of the 23 boroughs who participated reporting it as a medium or high level problem. Four boroughs reported alcohol-related youth disorder as a significant problem: Haringey, Ealing, Hounslow and Hillingdon, but youth disorder was most often described as being related to but not always caused by alcohol, with groups of young people often gathering together without drinking. An emerging issue however, seems to be young people’s use of free travel to visit off-licenses known to sell alcohol to those underage and then returning to their local area to consume it. While this was reported anecdotally by several boroughs involved in the research, an initiative in Havering which marked alcohol containers and actually tracked off-licence sales confirmed this occurrence within the borough.

The paper gives figures from the Met Police about disorder, and as the graph shows there were marginal falls between 2005 and 2006 in drunk and disorderly behaviour, and drunk in a highway charges, but a rise in the numbers of occasions where penalty notices were used where under 18 year olds were caught drinking in a public place.

Looking at the enforcement responses the authors note that:

Research published by the Home Office in 2004 examined the use of ABCs [Acceptable Behaviour Contracts] in the London Borough of Islington and found that 38% of young people issued with ABCs had been drinking alcohol in public before the contract commenced. While this research did not report specifically about how successful ABCs were in tackling alcohol-related ASB there were 19% fewer incidents of ASB and 60% fewer criminal offences committed by the young people issued ABCs than in the prior six months (Bullock and Jones, 2004). 

The case study in the paper about the use of an ASBO suggests they are less postive for the individuals who get them.  The study looks at a 17 year old alcoholic:

He reported that the ASBO had resulted in increased victimisation since it was publicised locally and that he had in fact increased his alcohol consumption to combat stress. His mother reported that the ASBO had prevented him accessing community facilities such as his local dentist and had made him angrier. He had mixed feelings about the impact of the ASBO and explained:

‘It don’t help no one the ASBO. It makes you more criminal but on the other hand it makes you wary of what you do, so it does in a way. You think people are watching you, you think you are safe, you get suspicious if someone calls… They make it serious but it ain’t serious to me. It does make me think because it carries a prison sentence of 5 years but when they lock someone up for the first time for 5 years, that’s when people will get a shock…Really, it hasn’t stopped me doing anything…Mate, I’ve grown out of it. I am mature, I don’t need to go over there so it is not a problem… My drinking is the problem… When I drink, I am violent, when I don’t I am a nice person – you know what I’m saying?… I think about everything seriously anyway because I am growing up and I know it is not a life to live so it is not about the ASBO. The ASBO don’t mean nothing to me anymore because I have already grown out of it. I am doing my own thing and I have grown out of it. Do you know what I am saying?’

 Perhaps surprisingly the authors found that there appears to be little use of powers which involve parents:

Across London parenting-related tools and powers were some of least used with only five of the 23 boroughs reporting having used these to tackle alcohol-related disorder in the last 12 months. In several boroughs these tools and powers were considered to be the responsibility of the Youth Offending Team and little was mentioned about their use to tackle alcohol-related disorder committed by young people, perhaps as this was not commonly identified as a local priority. Croydon however, mentioned that there has been some success in offering voluntary parenting support to parents of underage drinkers. Further research on the use of tools and powers connected to parenting may be useful.

 Looking at dispersal orders the paper says:

In Southwark dispersal zones were called Good Behaviour Zones as the key issue they were intended to deal with was youth disorder that was not specifically alcohol-related. In Havering, dispersal orders were to be used to target alcohol-related disorder committed mainly by young people congregating in and around off-licenses, however, the issue was resolved through partnership working with youth services, a programme of early intervention using a ‘yellow and red card’ system and training for safer neighbourhood teams. In Newham a dispersal order was used to manage street drinking in Forest Gate however some of the street drinking displaced into Stratford where street drinking was also occurring. Other boroughs[1] reported moderate to high success when using these powers, however, the way in which a dispersal order was measured as a ‘success’ were not clear. In Southwark, dispersal orders were seen as a ‘quick fix’ with diversion and outreach for young people being considered a better option.

 But not everywhere was able to deploy this tool successfully:

Wandsworth reported that their use of a dispersal order to manage congregating groups of youths on its Shaftsbury Estate was unsuccessful for three key reasons: 1) ongoing resources were not available for enforcement and signage; 2) groups of young people were displaced into neighbouring areas; and 3) youth provision was limited and young people did not feel able to visit other areas due to local tensions and territorialities. In addition to this, neighbouring borough Richmond was the subject of an objection to their dispersal order on the basis of a breach of human rights.

Filed under: alcohol, police

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