DCSF has the policy-lead across Government for young people and alcohol, aiming to reduce the level of alcohol consumption and the harms associated with drinking amongst under-18s, as set out in the Youth Alcohol Action Plan (June 2008) and the PSA 14 indicator on substance misuse by young people.
Young people were introduced as a priority in the updated alcohol strategy, Safe. Sensible. Social. The Government has strengthened its focus on this by publishing a Youth Alcohol Action Plan, in response to rising levels of alcohol unit consumption amongst young people who drink, and concerns relating to anti-social behaviour and crime.
The Youth Alcohol Action Plan seeks to:
- establish a national consensus on young people and drinking
- create a new offence of persistent possession of alcohol in a public place by a young person (under 18)
- work with the chief medical officer to develop a set of guidelines regarding young people and alcohol
- develop a communications campaign for parents and young people
- work with the alcohol industry to continue to reduce underage sales
- reduce the level of alcohol consumption by those young people who do drink (National Indicator 115).
It should however be remembered that ultimately, drinking is down to individual choice, and it is parents who raise their children, not Government. However, Government recognises its responsibility to provide parents with advice and information on the risks of alcohol and drugs on young people. The Why Let Drink Decide? campaign aims to do just that: provide advice and information that parents and young people will find helpful and which may help parents set clear boundaries with their children about alcohol consumption.
- The number of young people who have never had a drink increased from 39 per cent in 2003 to 48 per cent in 2008 and the proportion drinking regularly fell from 26 per cent in 2001 to 18 per cent in 2008.*
- However, those who do drink appear to be drinking more. The average number of units of alcohol consumed in the last week was 14.6 units, up from 12.7 units in 2007.*
- An estimated 360,000 children aged 11–15 have been drunk in the last week.*
- Nearly 10,000 children aged 11–17 are admitted to hospital each year in the UK as a result of their alcohol consumption (6,000 aged 11–15 and 4,000 aged 16–17).*
- In 2008, 18 per cent of pupils (aged 11–15) had drunk alcohol in the last week. The mean number of drinking days in the last 7 days was 1.8 for boys and 1.7 for girls. This was the same as in 2006.*
- The average number of units of alcohol consumed by 11- to 15-year-olds doubled between 1990 and 2000, and remains high.*
- England has among the highest level of teenage drinking and drunkenness when compared with other European countries.**
- Alcohol misuse is linked to poor outcomes for the individual, such as health problems, and the wider community in terms of anti-social behaviour and crime.*
- Central Government funding to support local areas in delivery of reducing substance misuse by young people is £55m per year until 2010–11.
* Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use by Young People in England in 2008 (published 2009)
** Health Behaviour in Scholl-aged Children (HBSC) study 2005-06
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Last updated on 01/03/2010