Over 200,000 children in England are living with Dependent Drinkers!

New figures released today reveal that over 200,000 children in England are living with dependent drinkers who could benefit from receiving specialist alcohol treatment.

The data from Public Health England estimates that there are 600,000 dependent drinkers who would benefit from treatment, yet only just over 100,000 are currently receiving the help they need.

These figures only cover adults who are most seriously dependent on alcohol. It is currently estimated that around 1.5 million adults in England and Wales have some form of alcohol dependence, and that there are 2.5 million children living with an adult drinking at risky levels.

The PHE data is released alongside a report from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) focused on improving the life chances and job prospects of the least well-off. The Department has said it will increase access to grant funding and introduce peer mentors for those in alcohol treatment to help them get back into work.

The report comes at a time when politicians are increasingly recognising the harm cheap alcohol is doing to the most vulnerable in society. The March budget included a consultation on the introduction of a new tax band designed to increase the price of strong white cider, a product which is predominantly consumed by children and heavy drinkers.

And earlier today a report published by the House of Lords Licensing Committee following an enquiry into the operation of the 2003 Licensing Act recognised the damage being done by cheap alcohol. The report calls for the introduction of a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol across the UK if it is introduced in Scotland and proves to be successful. Its introduction is being stalled by legal action being taken by sections of the alcohol industry. The report also calls for an end to multi-buy deals such as three for the price of two, a measure which has proved to be successful in Scotland.

Alcohol health experts welcomed the measures announced by the DWP today and the focus on the most vulnerable and lowest paid, pointing to studies which have shown that the least well off are around five times more likely to die from alcohol-related causes than those at the top of the income bracket.

Experts also called, however, for a wider, population-level approach to improving life and employment opportunities for dependent drinkers alongside greater support for individuals.

Liver physician Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA), said:

“We welcome the Government’s recognition that cheap alcohol is damaging some of the most vulnerable groups in society. The revelation that 200,000 children in England are living with adults in need of specialist help is deeply worrying. We need to make sure people get the support they need once they have a problem with alcohol, for their own sakes and for the sake of their children. But people don’t set out to become dependent drinkers and we need to stop more people from reaching that stage.

“For the greatest impact, the measures announced today should be combined with
measures like minimum unit pricing of alcohol. Studies have shown that setting a minimum price for alcohol would reduce unemployment and bring substantial numbers of unemployed drinkers back into the workforce.

“The government is already taking steps to tackle alcohol dependence in this broader way, with the recent announcement that it will be consulting on increasing the tax on high- strength ciders, drinks which are known to be drunk by the most vulnerable and do disproportionate harm.

“Studies also indicate that MUP would help address health inequalities, with over 80 per cent of lives saved coming from the lowest income groups. At the same time, the measure would not increase the price of alcohol sold in pubs and clubs.”

The Public Health England figures can be found here.
The DWP report, entitled Improving Lives: helping workless families, is available here.


About the Alcohol Health Alliance UK
The Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) is a group of 50 organisations including the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of GPs, British Medical Association, Alcohol Concern and the Institute of Alcohol Studies. The AHA works together to:
– Highlight the rising levels of alcohol-related health harm
– Propose evidence-based solutions to reduce this harm
– Influence decision makers to take positive action to address the damage caused by alcohol misuse

Experts call for action on HIGH STRENGTH CIDER to protect the homeless and the vulnerable.

The Alcohol Health Alliance and Thames Reach, the homelessness organisation, are today calling for duty increases on high-strength cider, which is a leading cause of death and ill-health among the homeless.

Experts will present evidence on this issue at an event taking place in the House of Commons today, sponsored by David Burrowes MP, aimed at highlighting the impact of alcohol on the homeless and vulnerable.

High-strength ciders, including products like Frosty Jack’s and White Ace, are nearly all drunk by homeless and dependent drinkers, and studies show these ciders are a favourite among children receiving treatment for alcohol dependence. Studies have found that 75-85% of high-strength cider drinkers choose it because of its low price. At typically 7.5% ABV, three-litre bottles of these ciders, which contain the same amount of alcohol as 22 shots of vodka, can be bought for as little as £3.49. This equates to just 16p per unit.

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The calls will put further pressure on the government to act on cheap, high-strength ciders in the budget in March.

In December, 43 organisations and experts from drinkingthe health, homelessness, children’s and religious sectors wrote to the Chancellor urging him to increase the duty on cider, and earlier this month polling was released which showed that 66% of the public back a cider tax. In addition, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has previously called for reform to address “the very low levels of duty charged on strong cider”.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said:

“A can of 500ml cider at 7.5% is taxed less than a third of the amount taxed on a can of beer the same size and strength. There can be no justification for the low rates of tax on high-strength cider.

“Our calls today are not about the drinks consumed by moderate drinkers. Dependent and vulnerable drinkers account for nearly all sales of high-strength ciders, meaning increased duty would be targeted at them. Indeed, we know that 80% of total cider sales would be left unaffected by duty increases on these high-strength ciders.

“The budget in March represents an ideal opportunity for the government to protect the homeless and vulnerable through increased cider duty.”

Jeremy Swain, Chief Executive of Thames Reach, said:

“98% of the homeless people we work with who have alcohol problems primarily drink bottles and cans of these high-strength ciders and super-strength beers, which are far stronger than regular and premium drinks. A survey of deaths among hostel residents over the past year showed that 10 out of 16 were directly attributable to high and super-strength drinks. This is not a one-off figure. An earlier survey showed 11 out of 14 deaths (78%) were caused by high and super-strength drinks.

“By increasing the tax on these high-strength and dangerous products, the harm done to the vulnerable people we work with will diminish, and the opportunity to reduce, and ultimately end, dependence on alcohol will increase.”

David Burrowes MP is sponsoring the event in Parliament and has long-campaigned locally and nationally about the harms of alcohol. Mr Burrowes said:

“The government has rightly put social justice at the heart of everything they do, and this commitment should extend to preventing the damage done by cheap, high strength drinks, which blight the lives and health of those who need our support – the homeless and vulnerable.

“An increase in the duty on high strength cider at the upcoming budget would represent a step in the right direction to tackling the burden of cheap alcohol on some of our most vulnerable communities.”

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About the Alcohol Health Alliance UK

The Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) is a group of 50 organisations including the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of GPs, British Medical Association, Alcohol Concern and the Institute of Alcohol Studies.

The AHA works together to:

  • Highlight the rising levels of alcohol-related health harm
  • Propose evidence-based solutions to reduce this harm
  • Influence decision makers to take positive action to address the damage caused by alcohol misuse

For further information, please contact Matt Chorley, the AHA’s Policy and Communications Officer, at matt.chorley@rcplondon.ac.uk.

About Thames Reach

Thames Reach is one of the UK’s leading homelessness charities. Its vision is to end street homelessness and its mission is to provide decent homes, encourage supportive relationships and help people lead fulfilling lives.

Thames Reach runs a range of services in London including street outreach services helping people sleeping rough escape homelessness, a variety of hostels and supported housing projects, and schemes which prevent homelessness and help people develop new skills, re-engage with family and friends, and get back into work.

Thames Reach has been campaigning for over a decade to raise taxation on the dangerous high-strength ciders and super-strength beers – all the major studies on alcohol indicate the price is one of the key factors in influencing what people drink – and have also called on the drinks industry to behave more responsibly.

Successes include the consumption of 9% super-strength beer falling by a quarter in the UK, after we successfully lobbied the Government to create a higher band of duty in 2011, while the drinks manufacturer Heineken removed all of its high-strength cider from sale in the UK after visiting one of our hostels.

See thamesreach.org.uk For further details, contact Thames Reach communications manager, Mike Nicholas, on mike.nicholas@thamesreach.org.uk.

 

 

UKCTAS welcome today’s ruling to introduce a minimum unit price in Scotland!

Plans to set a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland have been backed by the Scottish courts.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled against a challenge by the Scotch whisky industry, who claimed the plans were a breach of European Law. The ruling now paves the way for the Scottish government to implement its policy, passed by MSPs in 2012.

Under the plans, a price of 50p per unit of alcohol would be set, taking a bottle of spirits to at least £14. The Scottish government, health professionals, police, alcohol charities and some members of the drinks industry believe minimum pricing would help address Scotland’s “unhealthy relationship with drink”.

Sir Ian Gilmore responding to the ruling made today in the Scottish courts in relation to minimum unit pricing in Scotland:

“We welcome this court ruling, and hope to see minimum unit pricing speedily implemented in Scotland. Now is the time to act, even if the global alcohol producers, prioritising commercial interests over Scotland’s health, try to delay further by another appeal.

Now is also the time for England and Wales to follow suit and introduce MUP. The UK government committed to introducing MUP in 2012, and the public support the measure. Government-commissioned research estimates that in the first year following the implementation of MUP in England, there would be nearly 140 fewer crimes per day.

MUP leaves pub prices untouched, and targets the cheap alcohol which is preferentially consumed by children and dependent drinkers. Recent AHA research has found that alcohol is being sold for as little as 16p per unit, with 3 litre bottles of white cider, which contain the same amount of alcohol as 22 shots of vodka, available for just £3.49.

MUP would also be of greatest benefit to those on low income, with 8 out of 10 lives saved coming from the lowest income groups, and greater harm reductions felt by these groups. The government has spoken of its commitment to even out life chances, and MUP would go a long way in furthering this agenda.”

Dr John Holmes from the University of Sheffield said:

“The policy would mainly affect harmful drinkers, and it is the low income harmful drinkers—who purchase more alcohol below the minimum unit price threshold than any other group—who would be most affected. Policy makers need to balance larger reductions in consumption by harmful drinkers on a low income against the large health gains that could be experienced in this group from reductions in alcohol-related illness and death.”

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Modelling by the University of Sheffield estimates that a 50p MUP in Scotland would have the following effects after one year:

· 60 fewer deaths

· 1,300 fewer hospital admissions

· 3,500 fewer crimes

According to the modelling, the health gains will continue to increase over 20 years. At this time, in Scotland there would be an estimated:

· 120 fewer deaths due to alcohol each year

· 2,000 fewer hospital admissions due to alcohol each year

Work commissioned by the Government from the University of Sheffield revealed that 1 year after introducing an MUP in England there would be:

· 50,700 fewer crimes

· 376,600 fewer days absent from work

· 192 fewer deaths

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Professor Petra Meier, Director of the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, and another author of the study, added:

“Our study finds no evidence to support the concerns highlighted by Government and the alcohol industry that minimum unit pricing would penalise responsible drinkers on low incomes. Instead, minimum unit pricing is a policy that is targeted at those who consume large quantities of cheap alcohol.

“By significantly lowering rates of ill health and premature deaths in this group, it is likely to contribute to the reduction of health inequalities.”

Minimum pricing for alcohol effectively targets high risk drinkers, with negligible effects on moderate drinkers with low incomes – Research report from the University of Sheffield.

Press summary of the Opinion of the Court in the reclaiming motion by the Scotch Whisky Association and others against the Lord Advocate and the Advocate General for Scotland

 

Cheap alcohol: the price we pay and the road to Minimum Unit Pricing!

It has been five years since alcohol partners from across the UK carried out their last comprehensive price survey. A lot has happened in that time. The Coalition Government committed to introduce a minimum unit price (MUP) to tackle the harm caused by the cheapest alcohol. Then, with encouragement from sections of the alcohol industry, they decided to postpone its introduction until the outcome of a legal challenge to minimum unit pricing in Scotland had been resolved. The alcohol duty escalator – which increased duty by 2% above inflation – was scrapped. Wider duty rates were cut. And alcohol harm continued to rise.

Four member organisations of the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) – the Institute of Alcohol Studies; Alcohol Focus Scotland; Balance, the North East Alcohol Office; and Healthier Futures – decided to check how those changes had affected the price of alcohol that is available in communities across England and Scotland.

As part of the survey, the partners visited a range of off-sales premises looking for the nation’s cheapest booze. Almost 500 products were examined and the conclusion is clear – alcohol continues to be sold at pocket money prices in supermarkets and off-licences across the UK.

Chairman of the AHA and former president of the Royal College of Physicians, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, said:

“In spite of a government commitment to tackle cheap, high-strength alcohol, these products are still available at pocket money prices. Harmful drinkers and children are still choosing the cheapest products – predominantly white cider and cheap vodka.

We need to make excessively cheap alcohol less affordable through the tax system, including an increase in cider duty. It’s not right that high strength white cider is taxed at a third of the rate for strong beer. 

In addition, we need minimum unit pricing. This would target the cheap, high strength products drunk by harmful drinkers whilst barely affecting moderate drinkers, and it would leave pub prices untouched.”

Each year, there are almost 23,000 deaths and more than 1 million hospital admissions related to alcohol in England.

More than two-thirds of alcohol sold in the UK is purchased in supermarkets and off-licences.

Headline Findings

  • Alcohol continues to be sold at pocket money prices, with white cider dominating the market for cheap, high-strength drinks.
  • High-strength white cider products, which are predominantly drunk by dependent and underage drinkers, are sold for as little as 16p per unit of alcohol.
  • For the cost of a standard off-peak cinema ticket you can buy seven and a half litres of 7.5% ABV white cider, containing as much alcohol as 53 shots of vodka.
  • Recent cuts in alcohol taxes allow shops and supermarkets to sell alcohol at pocket money prices but have done little to benefit pubs and their customers.
  • High-strength white cider is taxed at the lowest rate of all alcohol products. A can of 7.5% ABV white cider attracts less than one-third of the duty on a can of beer that is the same strength.

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Recommendations

The Government needs to:

  1. Increase duty on high-strength cider
  2. Reinstate the alcohol duty escalator
  3. Upon leaving the EU, tax all alcoholic drinks categories in proportion to strength
  4. Implement a minimum unit price for all alcoholic drinks.

Minimum unit pricing and tax – dispelling the myths

A minimum unit price would only target the highest strength drinks that cause the most harm. There are many myths surrounding minimum unit pricing, which the alcohol industry uses to dissuade people from supporting it. We have included here just a few of those myths and our responses.

Myth: An MUP would affect moderate drinkers too.
Moderate drinkers would experience very little impact from minimum unit pricing, which makes it one of the most effective measures, as it only targets the most harmful drinks of the kind deliberately sought out in this survey. The price of a pint of beer in a pub, for example, would not be affected by minimum unit pricing.
Myth: Taxation would be more effective than an MUP.
Recent research from the University of Sheffield found that, to achieve the same level of impact as an MUP of 50p, a 28% increase in all alcohol duty would be needed, which is outside the realms of possibility when it comes to what the Government will do. Everyone would be affected by these measures, whereas minimum unit pricing only targets the cheapest, strongest drinks.
Myth: Tax and minimum unit pricing cannot be used together.
Increasing duty and introducing an MUP are often presented as alternative solutions, when they can in fact be used to complement each other. Minimum unit pricing is targeted at the cheapest alcohol that is consumed by the most harmful drinkers but there are limits to its impact on wider population alcohol consumption and health, which increases to duty overall would help to tackle.

Tax rises and tougher rules on alcohol promotions work well,
but they will always work better when combined with minimum unit pricing.

Read the full report here.

Landmark report reviewing #alcohol policies across the UK! @NiamhCreate @VictimOfMaths @UK_AHA @A4UEvidence

UK Government’s alcohol policies are weaker than devolved nations!

The UK Government’s alcohol policies are weaker than those implemented by the devolved nations, a landmark report from the Universities of Stirling and Sheffield has found. Alcohol policies across the four UK nations vary widely in the extent to which they are grounded in scientific evidence, with political considerations appearing to have significant bearing, the research shows.

The report was commissioned by the Alliance for Useful Evidence and reviewed policies from the UK Government and devolved administrations against recommendations from Health First, the independent expert-devised UK alcohol strategy, in the first such audit of its kind.  Overall strategy, pricing, marketing and availability of alcohol were amongst the areas examined.

Scotland had the strongest approach overall, seeking to implement the most evidence-based policies, working to clear outcomes, and with a taskforce in place to monitor and evaluate the Scottish Government’s alcohol strategy.

By contrast, the UK Government did not support the most effective policies, made inconsistent use of evidence, and was the most engaged with the alcohol industry.

While Wales and Northern Ireland took strong positions in areas such as taxation and restrictions on young drivers, they have fewer legislative powers than the Scottish Parliament.

The report was co-authored by Dr Niamh Fitzgerald, at the University of Stirling and Colin Angus at the University of Sheffield.

Dr Niamh Fitzgerald, University of Stirling – Lecturer in Alcohol Studies

“Alcohol policy at UK Government level is in disarray, with it choosing to reduce taxation despite evidence that consumption and alcohol-related harms will increase as a result, putting even greater pressure on NHS and emergency services.

In contrast to the UK Government, the devolved administrations – especially Scotland – are taking steps to address the widespread harms due to alcohol, recognising that they are a ‘whole population’ issue. All four nations, however, engage in partnership with the alcohol industry, despite clear conflicts of interest and its history of failure to support those policies most likely to work.

Colin Angus, University of Sheffield – Sheffield Alcohol Research Group

“A clear illustration of the gap in effective policy across the UK relates to the marketing of alcohol. The devolved administrations have indicated support for mandatory action on product labelling, but the UK government has favoured self-regulation which has proven ineffective, with over 40 percent of products on the shelf still failing to meet the industry’s own best practice guidelines.

On alcohol advertising, a reserved matter, the devolved administrations have called for stronger regulation to protect children, but this approach has been rejected by the former UK coalition government. The Scottish Government is currently updating its alcohol strategy while the other devolved nations continue to progress evidence-based policies to reduce alcohol harms. It may be that they will call for greater powers to go it alone in bringing in effective policy options, if Westminster is not prepared to act.”

Peter O’Neill, Alliance for Useful Evidence – Evidence Exchange Manager

“Devolution in the UK provides opportunities for exchange of evidence and learning about what works through experimentation with different policies across the four nations. This report calls on administrations to support such learning, by engaging openly and maturely with the alcohol policy evidence, being honest about reasons for policy decisions, and robustly evaluating policy initiatives. Unfortunately, the report also suggests that alcohol policy may sometimes be underpinned by ideology more than by evidence, and is likely to be less effective as a result.”

Four Nations: How Evidence-based are Alcohol Policies and Programmes Across the UK? has been presented to representatives of the four administrations as part of the work of the British-Irish Council, which meets later this month.