Thoughts / Notes from The Future of Alcohol Policy Conference, London 25/3/14:
Public Health England:
Alcohol costs individuals, others, society much of it preventable. Costs society £21billion a year: (£11billion crime, £3.5billion NHS and £7billion loss of productivity)
10% of the population drink 45% of the alcohol consumed
Chronic liver disease is the only cause of death where there is an increase, other chronic diseases showing a reduction.
Night-time Economy (NTE) is a priority area - asking what is a vibrant NTE?
Identify local needs and look at partnership approach.
Want to move from crisis management to prevention
In terms of NTE - Austerity - they are looking at eliminating costs and that whoever is causing the costs needs to pay for it.
Effects on business and residents - NTE brings in a lot of revenue - there is gain and suffering from NTE
Commission - need to share responsibility on outcomes - solutions need to be local to the area
Sexual Assault and violence against women is a huge problem - this is an area of need
British Beer and Pub Association:
15 million people visit pubs each week and 1 billion meals are served annually
Each pub on average raises £107k in tax, contributes £80k to local economy and £2.5k to local charities
As an Association they want to support localised grass-roots partnerships
Since 2004 there has been a 23% reduction in alcohol related crime (interestingly when Christian based Street Angels and Street Pastors projects were launching!)
Make local local!
Drinking culture is mainstream
Local economies are dependent on alcohol
Dry bars are on the increase as an alternative to alcohol centred night out
Situations in towns centres are only a small part of the problem
Need to protect children around alcohol issues - education and parents
Engaging Employers - employer alcohol policy
Health - street drinkers initiative in Ipswich is something to watch
Innovation is key part of solution
There is a 16% reduction in alcohol consumption in the UK
Supermarkets are not keen on minimum pricing but about promoting positive change - Asda sell lower strength alcohol which tastes as good as higher strength. Increased point of sale promotions - seen 4% year on year increase in sales of lower strength alcohol products.
Change consumption through taste and enjoyment
85% of high strength alcohol not sold in supermarkets but convenience shops
Advertising Standards Authority:
Alcohol consumption has fallen since 2004 (again when Christians started to engage with NTE!)
France have banned alcohol advertising and binge drinking amongst young people has increased - in England 55% reduction in teenagers drinking alcohol, in France 12% increase for over 15 year old's and 21% increase for 13-15 year old's.
Need to research what is going right
Alcohol misuse is a problem for the minority
UK is middle of the tables in terms of European alcohol consumption
Drinking amongst 11-15 year old's is falling, proxy buying is increasing as is drinking amongst older people (Sagalouts!)
As one who visits towns and cities on Friday and Saturday nights to see night-time projects such as Street Angels and Club Angels in action I found the 'Future of Alcohol Policy' conference very interesting.
I, and reports from our local projects, have noticed a shift in the night-time culture from nine years ago when Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday were more or less equally as busy to a scene today where the majority of people tend to have a town centre night-out only once a week (typically Saturday). Pre-loading is an issue as people stay at home longer and drink shop purchased alcohol. These factors are having a massive effect on the pub and club industry.
As I tour towns and cities across the UK I meet many amazing people - doorstaff, managers, bar workers, DJ's, promoters, police, ambulance and teams of volunteers who all have a heart for local towns and are united in wanting to see safe, vibrant and appealing night-time centres. Many of them have full time work outside of the night-time work yet the motivation is often not financial (certainly not the Street Angel volunteers) but a passion for helping others have a great night out.
Interestingly since 2004 there has been a reduction in alcohol related crime - this ties in with the launch of Christian based Street Pastors and Christian and Community based Street Angels in England (and indeed we have much evidence on our web site to support locally this national 23% reduction). Maybe there is a link? When the community and church takes responsibility and does something (and prays!) to actively address the problems of violence, sexual assaults, binge drinking, etc within the night-time economy the results are a change in the atmosphere of that locality. Alcohol (and its effects, issues, problems, etc) is an issue we are not going to talk ourselves out of (and I guess locally and nationally there is a lot of talking in a lot of meetings) but rather something we action (and pray) about to produce results.
Partnership is key - and I would say the local community is a key partner in anything that is done. In terms of the night-time economy it is, overall, a great place to be! The life, the music, the social aspect, the banter, etc - we need to celebrate it, we need to promote it, we need to offer safety for when things go wrong and we certainly need to promote and encourage alternatives to alcohol such as dry bar's. I liked the Asda approach - lower alcohol content products which taste the same! Positive promotion and messaging - there are surely some lessons to learn there! I am also encouraged, and hear for myself when I talk in schools and to young people, that attitudes towards alcohol are changing - drinking sensibly is something young people tell me time and again - money is better spent on a mobile contract, iTunes or tablet computers!
Following the conference I met with the coordinators of Club Angels in Croydon - they shared stories of those they had helped, some of the conversations they had had inside the club venue and the impact of the teams of young Christians in terms of reduction in aggression and violence. What they do is simple - 'chat, help, listen, care' - hand out flip-flops and lollipops, offer first aid and check people are having a good night. Yet somehow it has a positive impact! These are young people are into the club scene yet chose to spend time helping others (and some will be in Ibiza, Majorca and Tenerife over summer picking up the pieces of British young people on holiday). Maybe this is the future of alcohol policy, certainly in terms of the night-time economy - action not talk, caring not judging, positive, practical support and advice...