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Reaching out to parents

Castleford CAP – taking a long-term, preventative approach

CAP’s focus on alcohol education is part of a long-term, preventative approach to ensure that young people are equipped with the skills and knowledge to stay safe from alcohol harms. Airedale Academy School is a secondary school and sixth form in Castleford in West Yorkshire that works closely with its local CAP to implement effective, evaluated alcohol education programmes and to engage with parents and carers to talk about alcohol issues.

CAP offers the Alcohol Education Trust (AET) ‘Talk about Alcohol’ programme across all projects. This resource comes in a hard copy and in a digital download and has a series of lesson plans and BAFTA award winning videos. The efficacy of Talk About Alcohol was independently evaluated by The National Foundation for Education Research (NFER)23 among 4000 children in 30 schools over 2 years (2011-13) with a follow up 2 years later (2015) and was found to significantly delay the age that children choose to begin drinking whole drinks – an effect that got stronger over time. It was also rated 3/3 for impact and 5/6 for quality of evaluation by the Centre for Analysis of Youth Transitions (CAYT)24 and has been selected by The Early Foundation Intervention Foundation as one of the 100 best early intervention programmes worldwide. The Academy is committed to engaging with parents and carers and has arranged multiple visits by the AET to speak at parents’ evenings to highlight the risks and issues around underage drinking to parents as well as training teachers to deliver their programme effectively

In addition to its regular alcohol awareness sessions the partnership supports the school to organise special events including:

  • Smashed: a powerful drama-based programme delivered live and online by Collingwood Learning. This encourages youngsters to resist peer pressure and make safe choices around alcohol: 
  • Engaging presentations from speakers and performers such as singer/songwriter Henry Maybury, who tours schools to share his music and the experience of losing his older brother Tom from alcohol related illness. Henry’s moving story about the dangers of alcohol abuse gets a powerful message across to young audiences.
  • CAP Ambassadors – a group of students chosen by teachers to be peer educators for the Academy and support initiatives to reduce alcohol consumption.

A highlight of the education programme was a play devised by Airedale Academy’s sixth form performing arts students on the subject of alcohol and teenage domestic abuse/partner violence. The play was shown to all year 8 and 9 students along with accompanying workshops. It was considered so good that the Wakefield District Domestic Abuse and Safeguarding Team requested repeat performances at five of their training workshops for headteachers and other professionals. The play was widely praised as an example of good practice as a peer educator project and has has since been turned into a filmed resource, The Sound of Silence25, used across educational settings in West Yorkshire. In response to the finding from school surveys in the area that parents are the most common source of alcohol for children and young people, Spectrum Community Health CiC, a key partner in Castleford CAP, produced a leaflet for parents Young People & Alcohol – a Guide for Parents26 in November 2021.

“The CAP has been a massive benefit to Airedale Academy students and the wider local community. It has given students the tools and information needed in order to make informed choices surrounding alcohol in a fun and educational way. This has led to a reduction in not only the amount of alcohol students in the school community drink, but also the age they begin drinking. The CAP always looks at the needs of the school. It has always been student focused which enables the pupils to make their own opinions and choices in a more educated and informed way,” Elizabeth Fairhurst CEO, Northern Ambition Academies Trust

Outside school the CAP has helped to fund and promote a wide range of positive activities for children and young people including a pop-up café following an audit which showed that young people felt there was little for them to do in the area. Youth workers have engaged with young people on the street and in public places and signposted them to positive leisure activities including a programme called “Try Sports”. In the first year of its involvement with CAP, students were asked to complete a questionnaire at the start of the academic year and again towards the end. This was designed to assess their understanding of alcohol and the potential harms of underage drinking. These surveys have been conducted at the school every year since then and show a clear reduction in the number of students drinking alcohol.

Lancashire CAPs - Where’s the Harm? Campaign

78% of children surveyed in Lancashire who drink alcohol say they are given it by their parents and 65% of young people drink at home when their parents are supervising (2020). CAPs across the county have worked closely with Lancashire County Council to develop and run the Where’s the harm? campaign, which aims to:

  • Increase parental preparedness and acceptance of responsibility to monitor, supervise and prevent young people's exposure to alcohol consumption and related harm.
  • Decrease the number of parents who provide alcohol to young people.
  • Increase awareness of alcohol harms and risks.

Samantha Beetham, Senior Officer in the Alcohol and Tobacco Team at Lancashire County Council’s Trading Standards Service said: “We wanted to focus on parental responsibility, change perceptions of how appropriate it is for parents to give alcohol to under 18s and encourage parents to speak to their child about alcohol and look at putting guidelines and boundaries in place.”

The initial campaign included a two-week radio campaign and posters distributed to all off-licensed premises and GP's surgeries and health centres across Lancashire. Guidance for parents was published on the Lancashire County Council website at www.lancashire.gov.uk/lancan and information booklets distributed to all Lancashire secondary schools.

The 2021 campaign ran from 15th November to 5th December, designed to coincide with National Alcohol Aware[1]ness Week and to raise parental awareness in the run up to Christmas. The 'call to action' for the campaign was 'Talk Before They Drink', encouraging parents to get the facts on underage drinking and signpost them to support services.

Lancashire CAPs - Where’s the Harm? campaign key activities included:

  • Signposting parents to Lancashire Trading Standards Alcohol and Tobacco Team website providing information, support and links to Drinkaware, the Alcohol Education Trust and Alcohol Change UK.
  • A social experiment filmed by Lancashire Trading Standards at a store in Clitheroe. The purpose was to see how customers reacted to a 'dad' buying alcohol for his 16 year old 'daughter', and later, when the roles were reversed, with the daughter pressuring dad to buy alcohol for her. Professional actors were used to play the two roles and staff at the store were aware of the experiment but everything else in this powerful film is real. Where's The Harm Social Video - YouTube
  • A new social media campaign: #TalkBeforeTheyDrink, using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to reach parents who choose to supply alcohol to their children and adults who buy alcohol for children.
  • An online parent survey was promoted via the website and social media.
  • 2,500 parents and young people booklets from Alcohol Education Trust distributed to schools and partners across Lancashire CAPs and 250 Where's The Harm posters distributed to off licences and partners.

Key campaign messages were:

  • It is against the law for an adult to buy alcohol on behalf of someone who is under 18.
  • There are many risks associated with underage drinking.
  • Talk to your children about alcohol.
  • Key Call to action: #TalkBeforeTheyDrink - get the facts on underage drinking.

The social media toolkit was distributed to CAPs across Lancashire and all partners encouraged to share the messages and advice. The campaign reached a total of 82,159 people via website views, radio and social media. A survey of 54 parents showed: 


  • 75% had seen the Where’s the Harm #TalkBeforeTheyDrink campaign.
  • 53% said the campaign had taught them something new.
  • 58% were not aware of CMO advice that children should not be given alcohol before the age of 15.
  • 52% had given alcohol to their child before the age of 15.
  • 76% said the campaign had changed their view on giving their children alcohol.
  • 62% knew where to go for support if they were concerned about a child’s drinking.

Hastings CAP

The Hastings/Ore CAP provides a wide range of alcohol education for both children and parents as well as a varied programme of positive activities for children and young people. Hastings Academy is a key partner and provides its students with multiple alcohol education opportunities, including provision of Alcohol Education Trust resources, visits by SMASHED and singer songwriter Henry Maybury. The school has also trained nine ambassadors as alcohol peer mentors with more students studying the Royal Society Public Health (RSPH) Young Health Champions course.

Funding provided by CAP enabled a wide range of positive activities to be provided that encouraged engagement and team work such as “Nerf Wars” and “Rodeo Games”, and new skills such as yoga, cricket and graffiti art. Through funding obtained during the second round of the Home Office-led Local Alcohol Action Area (LAAA) programme Hastings CAP funded two mocktail making workshops which ran alongside alcohol awareness raising activities such as a “spin the wheel” game which highlights the physical, social, and legal consequences of alcohol abuse and use of “beer goggles” which re-creates the visual distortion, loss of perception, and lack of control that impair drunken drivers.

The National Social Marketing Centre (NSMC) undertook two surveys of children aged 11 to 17 on behalf of the CAP so that they could utilise the results in their findings for the ‘Think Again Now’ programme. A total of 121 Academy students were surveyed at the beginning of the CAP in the summer term of 2017. This was followed up with another identical survey in the summer term of 2019 which was completed by 324 students. A key finding was a 95% increase in those who “never drink or only drink a few times a year”.

There were significant reductions in parental supply of alcohol to children. When asked, in 2017, how they had got alcohol in the last four weeks, most (67%) answered that they had taken it from home with permission. This reduced to 18% in 2019 – a 73% decrease.

Of those who drank alcohol in the past four weeks, nearly half (47%) in 2017 had been given alcohol by a parent or guardian. This reduced to 21% in 2019.

The key intervention aimed at parents was a campaign developed by the NSMC aimed at parents of teenage children which highlighted the negative impact alcohol can have on a teenager child’s brain development and ran with the slogan: Your child and alcohol. Think Again Now. When the NSMC started working with NHS Hastings and Rother Clinical Commissioning Group around local alcohol issues, it didn’t anticipate the need to develop a campaign aimed at parents. It had, wrongly, assumed that young people were either purchasing alcohol from local retailers, or asking older siblings to buy it for them.

However, when the NSMC did the formative research with 72 11-15 year olds, they learned that they mostly got their alcohol from their parents. Based on this finding, they conducted further research, this time with local parents. They said they did give their children alcohol, but with the best intentions. The parental research uncovered a number of false assumptions:

  • Parents believed their child would be more likely to “rebel” and drink more if they were too strict around alcohol.
  • They were not aware that there was a problem with giving under 18-year-olds alcohol, they believed it was the social norm.
  • Parents see alcohol as an inevitable rite of passage and assume their child will experiment with alcohol at some stage.
  • They did not see how their behaviour could affect their children’s consumption as they believed their children were more influenced by their peer group.
  • They felt that nearly all young people drank alcohol, and that most of the other parents also gave their children alcohol, so they felt a pressure to do so also.
  • They were unaware that alcohol can have an effect on brain development and were shocked by this.

What was most clear was that the parents had no concept that what they were doing could be harmful. Therefore, if the NSMC wanted to achieve behaviour change, it would have to rebuff some of the myths around young people and alcohol consumption. It pre-tested various campaign images and messages with parents, and the one that resonated was a hard-hitting message about how alcohol can affect young people’s brain development.

Based on the findings, a mix of interventions was developed. A radio campaign aimed at parents and guardians was supported by posters, leaflets and a website. The campaign highlighted the negative impact alcohol can have on teenage brain development and ran with the slogan,” Your child and alcohol. Think Again Now.” For the young people themselves, work was done with i-Rock, a service for 14 -25 year olds in Hastings offering young people help and advice with issues including emotional wellbeing, mental health, education, employment and housing.

The radio campaign ran for two weeks and reached 1,542 parents with teenage children. 162 people visited the website during this period. Results suggest the campaign had a positive impact on parents’ understanding of the dangers of young people drinking, in particular around the key message of the impact alcohol can have on a teenager’s brain.

Key findings were:

  • 81% of parents before the campaign (baseline) said their child drank alcohol. After the campaign (follow-up) this had reduced to 72%.
  • When asked before the campaign ‘Do you, or anyone you know, buy alcohol for their teenager/s (under 18 years of age) to drink?’ 25% said they did and 39% said they knew another parent. At follow-up only 20% said they bought alcohol, although the number who stated they know of another parent who does stayed the same at 39%.
  • When asked ‘Did you know that our brain continues to develop until we are in our early 20s and alcohol can affect
    the development of a teenager’s brain?’, 39% answered ‘yes’ at baseline, compared to 59% at follow-up.
Promoting alcohol awareness
Supported by Askern CAP, Doncaster successfully applied for a £1,313 grant from the Local Alcohol Partnerships Grant Fund. This was used to create a resource pack aimed at raising awareness among young people of alcohol-related health harms to be used in youth clubs and the local secondary school, as part of health awareness events. The resource pack has also being used by the local policing team to educate young people in other parts of Doncaster on the potential harms of alcohol consumption.

Engaging young people
In Pontypridd CAP a group of secondary school children attended a two-month course of weekly sessions delivered by the Youth Engagement and Participation Service supported by a qualified nurse.

All the sessions were delivered in Pontypridd Park via a partnership with Heritage Lottery. They included a trip to local allotments where the group picked fruit and vegetables and made lunch from scratch, learning new skills along the way. The group is now putting together a business plan to access funding to deliver health improvement messages across the area and are keen to become part of a cross-UK Young Health Champions Network.

Tackling proxy purchase
Sutton-in-Ashfield CAP was the first to come up with the innovative idea of a pavement stencil near alcohol outlets to communicate the clear and simple message that purchasing alcohol on behalf of an under 18 is an offence. Following a successful pilot in the area, CAP has since produced stencils for use around the country including one in Welsh for our Welsh CAPs. These temporary chalk-based stencils are sprayed on pavements outside off licences and supermarkets and are an innovative, low cost and eye-catching way of drawing attention to the issue.

Connecting communities
A week of action by North East Edinburgh and North West Edinburgh CAPs raised awareness across the community of the dangers of alcohol misuse.  

The week involved compliancy testing, engagement with young people in hotspot areas, community patrols with Tommy Sheppard MP and performances of “Smashed” in Edinburgh High Schools. There was widespread stencilling around the city to raise awareness of proxy purchasing.

Proactive engagement with the Citadel Youth Group was an essential aspect of the ‘education’ strand of the operation and a range of activities were held, involving alcohol/drug discussion and games utilising education resources provided by CAP including ‘beer goggles’ to simulate the effect of being drunk.

During the week licensed premises across the area were visited by police officers and CAP partners and any that fell below the required standard were monitored with further test purchasing.

Providing positive activities
Reading CAP provides a hugely successful alcohol-themed Manga drawing project for 13-24 year olds during the school summer holidays.

The Create a Comic project offers young people the chance to create their own manga-style comic strips and stories to raise awareness of the dangers of alcohol consumption. Facebook and Instagram groups offer daily updates, drawing guidance and competitions to engage young members – so those taking part can access the tutorials wherever they are.

Working with licensed premises

Supported by the local CAP scheme and PASS, the Hastings Business Crime Reduction Partnership successfully applied for a £1,500 grant from the Local Alcohol Partnerships Group Fund for a project to provide enhanced training for door supervisors and others in detecting fraudulent ID and managing refusals into premises.

The group developed a good practice guide for detecting fake ID and identifying the tactics used by under-18s to obtain entry to licensed premises and offered training. The project has had a clear and demonstrable local impact. The training sessions attracted a wide range of attendees and led to an increasing number of false IDs being confiscated and a significant number of entry refusals. The toolkit developed by the Steering Group has also allowed the continuation of training sessions and wider, sustained, stakeholder engagement.

I am really pleased to be working with Community Alcohol Partnerships to help reduce some of the effect that alcohol has on our communities and the harm it can cause our young people. Keeping our young people safe is paramount and this proactive approach to educate on substance misuse, provide alcohol-free activities and avoid underage sales demonstrates how local organisations are uniting to offer support.

Zoë Metcalfe
Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire,

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