Tackling Young People's Drinking In Northern Ireland

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Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has launched an integrated, co-ordinated action plan to prevent, reduce and address young people’s drinking.

The Action Plan has been developed by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety with the support of the Northern Ireland Office, the Police, the Department for Social Development and a range of other organisations, agencies and sectors.

Launching the action plan at Newtownbreda High School in Belfast, Michael McGimpsey said: “Northern Ireland has an increasingly unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Our children and young people are particularly at risk as they are far more vulnerable than adults to suffering physical, emotional and social harm from their own and from other people’s drinking.

“In fact, research has shown links between excessive alcohol consumption and physical harm, unsafe sexual behaviour, unintended pregnancy, traffic and other accidents, suicide and self-harm, failure at school, mental health problems and anti-social behaviour.”

The Minister highlighted the range of issues that the plan will address: “The action plan focuses on three main areas: reducing young people’s demand for alcohol by providing information, education and training; restricting the supply of alcohol; and providing treatment and support for those who require additional help.

“While the emphasis of this action plan is on young people, it recognises that their drinking patterns are very much influenced by modelling the drinking patterns of adults in our society and it therefore contains actions that will impact on the entire population.

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“Change will not come overnight, but by taking a pro-active and partnership approach, we can and will make a difference.”

Minister for Policing and Justice Paul Goggins said: “Alcohol and young people do not mix and it is important that young people are made aware of the effects of alcohol. I therefore welcome publication of this plan, which seeks to reduce demand for alcohol by young people, restrict supply and accessibility to alcohol and to provide interventions and effective treatment and support for those young people most at risk.

“Last week I launched a multi-media campaign entitled 'You, Your Child and Alcohol', aimed at encouraging parents to discuss alcohol issues with teenagers to promote responsible attitudes. Over the summer period a range of diversionary activities will be offered to our young people and, in parallel, PSNI colleagues will undertake a range of enforcement initiatives.

“This action plan captures a number of important initiatives and I welcome the partnership approach taken to develop our strategy, aimed at reducing the harm caused by alcohol, both to our young people and to our community."

Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland welcomed the publication of the Young People’s Drinking Action Plan: "The issues around young people's drinking in Northern Ireland cannot be tackled by any organisation working in isolation, but by working in partnership I believe we can achieve positive outcomes.

"Enforcement does have an important role to play but it is not the only solution. We have been working to address young people's drinking along with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Northern Ireland Office, Policing Board, Public Health Agency, the Department of Education and the alcohol industry.

"The current communication campaign 'You, Your Child and Alcohol', aims to challenge parents to think twice about the serious consequences underage drinking can have and is a key a part of the overall education process."

"The Police will continue to work with local councils and others on enforcement and Operation SNAPPER will be the focus of our enforcement activity across Northern Ireland. We will continue to proactively target drinking in public places throughout the summer months and build on the success of SNAPPER which has so far resulted in the confiscation of over 25,000 items of alcohol and the detection of over 1000 persons.”

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