On Friday 14 August Rob visited the Madejski Stadium complex to learn more about the Reading Community Alcohol Partnership (CAP), which brings together key local organisations to aim to tackle the problem of underage drinking in and around the town.
As part of its local operation, Reading CAP organises diversionary activities and Alcohol Awareness sessions for young people across the borough. Today's event, delivered in partnership with Reading FC Community Trust, consisted of a six-a-side football tournament at the Madejski Stadium, in which local youngsters showcased their talent on the pitch, whilst also learning valuable lessons about alcohol awareness.
At the event, Rob boarded the 'First Stop Bus' - which by day visits the borough's schools to provide important alcohol awareness training to young people, and by night, offers assistance to Reading's revellers in the pubs and clubs, with its on-board medical team providing first aid treatment for minor injuries and helping to ease the pressure on the emergency services.
Rob toured the bus with Reading's CAP Officer Matthew Knight, who guided him through the resources used to educate the public and also explained a little about the efforts of the CAP to work with retailers to ensure they are alert and vigilant when underage buyers attempt to purchase alcohol in their shops. Also joining them on the bus was CAP Programme Manager Gillian Powell, who discussed with Rob the national picture and the challenges ahead in the drive to cut underage drinking.
Rob also took the opportunity to learn more about the progress being made by the Reading FC Community Trust from Social Inclusion Manager Richard Witt. Richard, who himself started at Reading FC as a youth team player, updated Rob on the diverse range of engagement activities undertaken by the Trust, which adhering to its motto "Care, Develop, Educate" aims to reach out to over 3,500 young people every week.
There was also the chance for Rob to meet singer-songwriter Henry Maybury who, having tragically lost his brother Tom to alcohol addiction aged 29, aims to raise awareness through his songs such as "Lost Days", the proceeds of which are donated to addiction and recovery charities. Henry tours the UK educating others through his music and is currently visiting prisons to perform, converse, enlighten and inspire.
Speaking after the event, Rob said: "It was great to meet all involved in making today's event such a great success and I'm delighted to have been invited.
"Sport is a fantastic way to engage young people from all backgrounds and today's event provided the perfect opportunity for the footballers to compete, have fun, but also learn important lessons about underage drinking and the dangers of alcohol abuse.
"The Reading Community Alcohol Partnership is clearly very active around the town and it's good to hear that its multi-agency approach is aiming to tackle underage drinking through direct engagement with young people, enforcing the law with regard to underage consumption and proxy purchasing, and maintaining a constructive dialogue with businesses and retailers."
Derek Lewis, Chairman of the CAP said: "I am delighted at the fantastic progress being made by the Reading Community Alcohol Partnership. Community Alcohol Partnerships are a tried and tested way of driving down underage drinking and creating better, safer and friendlier neighbourhoods. Locally tailored partnerships, which recognise that retailers and licensees are an important part of the solution, have been shown to be highly effective in driving down harm."