Charity Addaction has attacked the government’s youth alcohol action plan for possibly criminalising young people and “missing all the easy targets” on tackling underage drinking.
The action plan, published yesterday, promised a crackdown on public drinking by young people, including sanctions for their parents, and guidance for parents on sensible drinking by young people in the home.
The plan called for escalating sanctions for young people caught drinking in public starting with acceptable behaviour contracts – in which parents and their children attend a session with a trained worker – to antisocial behaviour orders.
The government will also introduce a ban on under-18s persistently possessing alcohol in a public place and fresh powers for police to disperse groups of young people who are drinking and behaving antisocially.
It also called for wider use of parenting orders and contracts for parents of young people caught drinking in public and behaving poorly. The plan said public drinking by young people was a “key concern”, created problems for other people and put young people themselves at risk.
However, Addaction’s director of operations, Richard McKendrick, said: “This plan is essentially a raft of measures which risks bringing even more young people into a criminal justice system already creaking under its own weight.”
Fails to offer solutions
In addition, he said it failed to offer solutions to underage drinking. “There are no plans for the thousands of young people – many still just at primary school – coming into A&E who could be offered information and support to prevent them going on to put themselves at further risk,” he said.
There was not enough focus on “intensive support for families”, which he said could both prevent antisocial behaviour and save resources.
Turning Point more positive
A more positive response came from Turning Point, although its spokesperson on children and young people Jill Shaw also called for better access to treatment services and “an integrated whole family approach”.
She called for the government to focus on parental alcohol misuse, which affects more than one million children, as current treatment is inadequate. “Without important interventions at vital stages of these young lives, they are much more likely to go on to have alcohol problems themselves,” she said.