Welcome to Community Alcohol Partnerships

Community Alcohol Partnerships [CAP] has found a disturbing and widespread lack of knowledge among parents about whether and when they should allow their children to drink alcohol. 

A large survey conducted by Ipsos has shown that well over half of adults are unaware of the guidance issued by the Chief Medical Officers [CMOs], which recommends that childhood should largely be alcohol-free. 

CAP calls on governments across the UK to work to raise awareness of the dangers of underage drinking.

Official guidance from the CMOs across the UK is that the healthiest and safest option is for children’s lives to remain alcohol free up to the age of 18.  

The guidance further states that if children are to drink alcohol, it should not be until at least the age of 15. If young people aged 15 to 17 do drink, it they should do so in a supervised environment, and no more than once a week. 

In order to test public understanding of the Government advice on alcohol consumption for children, CAP commissioned an Ipsos Omnibus poll of over 2000 UK adults (not all of them parents) aged 18-75 and found that: 

  • 58% of adults said they are not aware of Government guidance on the consumption of alcohol by children and young people, initially published in 2009 by Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer for England.

Of those adults who said they were aware of the CMO guidelines:  

  • 34% (or 14% of all adults) were aware of the ‘alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option’ guideline;  
  • 31% (13% of all adults) were aware of the guidance that ‘Children should not drink alcohol before they are 15 years old’; and  
  • 21% (9% of all adults) were aware of the advice that ‘Children aged 15 to 17 should only drink with the guidance of a parent or carer or in a supervised environment’.  

The survey findings build on a previous survey of parents of 11-17 year olds in the UK, conducted in October 2021 by Ipsos for CAP, which showed: 

  • 67% of parents had never heard of, or at best knew just a little about the CMOs’ guidance on alcohol consumption for under 18s; 
  • 53% of parents allowed or would allow their children to have an alcoholic drink before they are 18;  
  • 22% of parents would allow, or had allowed, their children aged 11-17 to drink alcohol unsupervised.  

Kate Winstanley, Director of Community Alcohol Partnerships, said: “Too few parents understand that Government advice is that the children should have a mainly alcohol-free childhood. Alcohol can have serious effects on developing brains and bodies, as well as leaving teenagers vulnerable to unsafe situations and yet the majority of adults has allowed or would allow their children to drink alcohol before they are 18.  

“The widespread lack of awareness of official guidance on children drinking should be an urgent concern for governments and the NHS, since there are currently more than 3,500 alcohol-related admissions of children to hospital in England each year.” 

CAP notes that there has been no substantial campaign by Government to communicate the CMO guidance for parents, of the sort that has been successfully deployed against drink driving, or by Government, the industry and NGOs in relation to advice on alcohol consumption by adults. 

Given the scale and complexity of the task involved in increasing awareness of the CMO guidance, CAP is calling on the Government to initiate a collaborative national campaign, involving the relevant Government departments, schools, national, and local government, as well as frontline public services, retailers, youth support organisations and alcohol harm-reduction organisations, like CAP.  

It is vital to ensure that advice for parents is both widely available and accessible and that a substantial majority of parents is aware of its existence and advice. 

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NOTES TO EDITORS 

For interviews contact Chris Wimpress, Cicero/amo tel. 07970 137527 [email protected] 

You can download a copy of the report here.

Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAP) is a Community Interest Company (CiC) which brings together and supports local partnerships of councils, police, retailers, schools, health providers and community groups to reduce alcohol harm among young people, improve their health and wellbeing and enhance their communities. 

https://www.communityalcoholpartnerships.co.uk/ 

Local CAP partners will typically include police, trading standards, relevant local authority departments such as public health, licensing, community engagement and youth services, schools, local charities, housing associations, resident associations and alcohol retailers/licensees. 

BACKGROUND 

In 2009, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of England published the first official guidance1 on alcohol aimed specifically at children and young people. 

This recommended that the healthiest and safest option was for children to remain alcohol free up to the age of 18. If children did drink alcohol it should not be until at least the age of 15. If young people aged 15 to 17 did drink, it was suggested they should do so in a supervised environment, and no more than once a week. 

Parental supply is a highly complex subject area that needs to be tackled sensitively understanding the motivations behind these patterns of behaviour.  

The advice is also relatively complex with different messages required for different age groups. Parents face considerable challenges in setting boundaries and navigating conflict with their teenage children – they need help and support during a challenging period of parenthood. 

There are particular challenges in communicating with “hard to reach” parents especially those who might be drinking at harmful levels themselves and might reject health messages or be embarrassed to discourage their children from drinking. It is important to ensure such parents receive tailored advice that is supportive of their needs. 

Survey Details: 

Survey of adults (February 2022): 

Research was conducted by Ipsos UK on behalf of Community Alcohol Partnerships in order to understand UK adults’ awareness of the CMO’s guidance and perceptions of which recommendations the guidelines make.  

Online interviews were conducted among a nationally representative quota sample of 2,083 adults aged 18-75 in the UK. Quotas were set on age, gender, region and working status. Data were weighted to available population profiles on age, gender, region, working status and social grade.  Interviews were conducted 25th - 26th February 2022. 

Survey of parents (October 2021): 

Research was conducted by Ipsos UK on behalf of Community Alcohol Partnerships in order to understand parental/guardian attitudes towards introduction of alcohol to children aged 11 to 17, including permission for unsupervised drinking and supply to their own children. 

Online interviews were conducted among a nationally representative quota sample of 2,002 parents and guardians of children aged 11 to 17 living in their households in the UK. Quotas were set on age and gender of parents, region, and on the age of the oldest child in the household aged 11 to 17.  Data was weighted to available population profiles on the age profile of children, and by age, gender and region of the parent population.  Interviews were conducted from 15 to 26 October 2021. 

News and Blogs

A vital part of the CAP’s work has been engaging with young people, getting them involved in the campaign and building their trust. The CAP held engagement nights with local young people to discuss the issue of underage drinking and anti-social behaviour. They told us there was nothing for them to do – the community centre had no funding, access to the sports field had been cut off and there were very few facilities for young people. So far CAP has held community events, reopened access to the sports field, cleared the discussed BMX track and held street art sessions. Working hard to engage with this traditionally difficult-to-reach group has been key to our success.

Scott Adams
Cumbria Constabulary

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