So we’ve heard and seen what the media coverage has been but what does the plan actually say.
In describing the actions they’ve taken around young people’s drinking they say:
there has been little focus on how to influence the decisions young people and parents make about alcohol and drinking in the home. While alcohol education in schools and general information campaigns have aimed to influence young people’s attitudes, there has been no specific social awareness campaign aimed at younger teenagers (11–15 years old) and no specific advice about low risk drinking by young people. The Department of Health’s guidance about sensible levels of ‘alcohol unit’ consumption was designed with adults in mind.
In part, this approach has reflected the view that, beyond the existing law on consumption, decisions about drinking alcohol, as opposed to buying it, are a private matter for young people and parents where the Government should not normally intervene. Additionally, alcohol has historically been seen as less worrying or risky than illegal drugs. Yet, as this chapter demonstrates, of all substances, the use of alcohol has shown the greatest growth and causes the most widespread problems among young people.
In terms of what the government are proposing they say there will be five priorities:
- Stepping up enforcement activity to address young people drinking in public places.
- Taking action with industry on young people and alcohol.
- Developing a national consensus on young people and drinking.
- Establishing a new partnership with parents on teenage drinking.
- Supporting young people to make sensible decisions about alcohol.
Enforcement against young people
Clearly the majority of our interest will be in the last three, but it’s worth having a view across the piece. The government say that young people drinking, unsupervised in public places is unacceptable, the type of drinking that will put young people at most risk and most likely to lead to problems for others (through crime and anti-social behaviour). They suggest they will bring forward legislation to ensure “suitable penalties” are available for those who persistently drink in public places, and they will make it an offence fpr under 18s to possess alcohol in a public place.
The sorts of powers they are looking at to discourage street drinking are:
- increasing the powers of the police to disperse young people; and
- extending the Direction to Leave power to 10-15 year olds.
Where there are young people repeatedly drinking in public and this is linked to anti-social behaviour they suggest the use of Acceptable Behaviour Contracts, Alcohol Arrest-Referral pilots to be extended, and the use of parenting contracts with the families where young people are repeatedly caught drinking in public.
Should things continue the government will encourage the use of ASBOs, and implement new legislation to make it an offence for under-18s to “persistently possess alcohol in public places”. For parents this could mean the use of Parenting Orders. The plan also talks about new guidance to strengthen multi-agency working with these young people.
Action with the Industry
The plan says the government are considering strengthening and making the Social Responsibility Standards mandatory.
There will be increased sanctions on those breaching licensing conditions, and a reduction in the number of times retailers will be able to sell alcohol to young people before the sanctions kick in. And a yellow and red card system which could mean immediate withdrawal of the license.
There will be work done by the police and local authorities to identify “hotspots” of premises causing concern.
More funding for test purchasing campaigns, encouraging Challenge 21 and Think 21 to be rolled out, and more use of Proof of Age schemes. More industry training on refusing young people.
The government will consider further reductions on alcohol advertising.
The plan says there will be guidance about young people’s drinking which will:
- help shape young people’s own choices about drinking;
- inform – but not determine – parents’ decisions about their children’s drinking;
- help parents to say “no” and set boundaries by establishing clearer expectations about what is sensible;
- provide a clearer rationale which enjoys public support for any further Government action on alcohol and young people; and
The guidelines will specifically address the following key issues:
- the age at which children and young people could start to drink alcohol;
- how much is sensible for young people to drink; and
- how far young people’s drinking should be supervised by parents or carers.
- stimulate public debate about how young people could lower their risk from drinking.
Working with Parents
They are looking for feedback on the plan from parents (and others), and in specific pieces of work (such as the Chief Medical Officer’s guidance on the amount of alcohol young people might drink).
The government will develop advice for parents, to be published next year, and will ensure that Parenting Early Intervention Programmes include a focus on young people misusing alcohol.
They will also extend the Family Intervention Projects to cover a further 500 families with substance misuse issues, which will be evaluated to find out what impact they are having.
Helping Young People in Making Decisions
The government promise a “comprehensive communications campaign about the risks of alcohol”, which will be aimed at young people (particularly those 11 to 15) and their parents. On educational inputs they say:
Alcohol education in schools is crucial as it is designed to reach all children and young people of school age. Ofsted reports show that its delivery and quality could be improved. The current review of alcohol and drug education will report to Government shortly on how to improve the effectiveness of this education in schools. Amongst other things, the review will look at the guidance to schools on when and how to educate children and young people; how to identify young people at risk of alcohol misuse; and how best to support those already misusing alcohol – including when a young person should be dealt with in school and when it would be more appropriate to refer them to further targeted youth support. It will involve use of the Common Assessment Framework as well as improving the skills of the children’s workforce in order that they have the capacity and knowledge to respond appropriately.
They also point to other work already under way to improve out of school provision (under the banner of Aiming High for Young People) and talk about targeted youth support. Finally they say that for those that need it alcohol treatment will be improved.
Should you want to comment on the Action Plan you can send a response to the DCSF via their consultations website.
Filed under: alcohol, alcohol strategy, Youth Alcohol Action Plan