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Young People: Alcoholic Drinks

Volume 486: debated on Thursday 15 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Youth Alcohol Action Plan in meeting its objectives; and if he will make a statement. (247258)

The Youth Alcohol Action Plan (YAAP) published on 2 June 2008 set out a comprehensive approach to address the problems associated with young people's alcohol consumption. The key steps that have already been taken are as follows.

Antisocial behaviour and violent crime related to outdoor drinking by young people is being tackled through the introduction of a number of new initiatives through the Policing and Crime Bill announced in the Queen's Speech in December 2008. Subject to parliamentary approval, this would include the introduction of a new offence of persistently possessing alcohol in a public place by under 18s; increasing the penalty for the offence of consuming alcohol in a designated public place; ensuring that when police confiscate alcohol from under 18s that they also take a record of their name and address and if they are under 16, remove them to a place of safety; and by lowering the age for direction to individuals who represent a risk of disorder powers, so that police can now disperse groups of under 16s.

The Policing and Crime Bill also would introduce a mandatory code for the alcohol retail industry which will include further action to reduce underage sales; and the offence of selling alcohol to children would be changed from on three or more to two or more different occasions. The Home Office has provided funding to encourage greater take-up and acceptance of the proof of age standards scheme.

We committed to ensuring that parents were made to be responsible for their children's alcohol related antisocial behaviour, with greater use of acceptable behaviour contracts and parenting contracts. The Home Office will shortly be launching a series of practitioner training workshops to improve the skills of frontline practitioners on the tools and powers at their disposal to tackle alcohol-related harms, which will be followed up by revised guidance to the police, health and children's services in all local areas to strengthen their approach to dealing with young people drinking in public places.

Targeted work on reducing the harm arising from young people's substance misuse, of which alcohol plays a part particularly with vulnerable young people, is being taken forward through actions set out in the drug strategy, “Drugs: Protecting Families and Communities” (published in February 2008). This includes improving the specialist treatment available to those under 18s with substance misuse problems, with alcohol dependency the main factor in over 1/3 of all those currently being helped; ensuring a focus on identifying problems early through children's services, including where a child is affected by parental alcohol misuse; and supporting the most vulnerable young people through targeted youth support and substance misuse workers in all youth offending teams. To target families at risk, family intervention pilots (FIP) have been extended to 500 further families affected by substance misuse including alcohol.

Furthermore, Government have committed to ensuring that young people and their parents are provided with appropriate information to prevent them from suffering from the risks of alcohol use. We will shortly be issuing guidance from the Chief Medical Officer what consists responsible drinking, and we expect to consult with parents and young people on what information and advice they would find useful to their decisions about young people's drinking and to help reduce harms caused by it. We anticipate that consultation on the information and advice will form part of a wider social marketing campaign on young people’s drinking.

A review of drug and alcohol education has taken place and, in response to its recommendations, in October 2008 Government committed to review existing guidance on the subject by September 2009 and to conduct an independent review of how its decision to make PSHE statutory status can be translated into a practical way forward.