Consultation on young people and alcohol

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A consultation on on children, young people and alcohol has been published, showing that there is a broad base of support for guidelines from the Chief Medical Office on safe levels of drinking.

The report confirms that there is a clear need for government advice and information for parents. Respondents were very clear that Government had a role to play on the issue, and parents were keen for more support and information.

The consultation, which included guidance drawn up by Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), asked how best to help young people make informed choices about alcohol consumption. The responses were issued on the same day as new statistics show a decline in the number of 11-15 year olds drinking alcohol.

The consultation has shown that parents and young people mostly agree with the CMO’s guidance which suggests that young people should not consume alcohol under the age of 15 and between 15 and 17 any alcohol consumption should be with the guidance or supervision of parents and carers.

Statistics from the NHS Information survey of over 7,500 secondary school children showed a continued decline in the number of young people drinking. 52% of 11-15 year olds questioned said that they had, ever consumed alcohol, compared to 54% in 2007 and to 61% in 2001. However, of those young people who drank alcohol, there was a rise in the number of units consumed, highlighting the growing need for guidance on consumption of alcohol.

Children’s Minister Dawn Primarolo said: “I am pleased that the statistics show a continued decline in the number of young people drinking alcohol, however it is disappointing to see that those who choose to drink, are drinking more than last year.

“What the findings demonstrate is the need to make sure guidance and information is suitably targeted at parents as well as their children. Ultimately we want to see young people waiting longer before consuming alcohol, but when they do decide to drink, we need to make sure that they and their family have clear support and advice from professionals.”

The NHS Information Smoking, Drink and Drugs (SDD) survey suggests that schools pupils are more than three times as likely to drink alcohol if they live with other drinkers and they are more likely to drink if they believe their parents are tolerant of their drinking.

Generally, respondents felt that the information for young people should be shorter and simpler, but the majority felt that the messages were effective enough to be put into practice.

As a result of the consultation, the guidelines set by Sir Liam Donaldson will remain unchanged and will form part of a communications campaign later in the year as well as informing Sir Liam Donaldson’s final guidance document for professionals working with young people in the autumn.

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