The criminal justice, health, local councils and voluntary sectors are uniting with other partners across Nottinghamshire to achieve more effective and long-term solutions to alcohol misuse.
Their united front towards prevention and cure follows Commissioner Tipping’s Alcohol Conference in July 2013 when partners discussed the impact of excessive drinking on crime and health, and the burden it places on taxpayers. Their knowledge and experience along with the views of people affected by alcohol misuse is now reflected in the Commissioner’s first Alcohol Strategy and Action Plan .
In this, he has set out how partners will work together to reduce alcohol abuse and its links to issues that include violent crime, domestic abuse and hospital admissions, while protecting the prosperity of the night time economy.
A survey of residents in 2013 demonstrated overwhelming support for tougher controls on alcohol sales, marketing and promotion and drink driving. There was also strong support for greater controls over the hours of sale, minimum unit pricing and restrictions over drinking in public.
The result of this and the discussions of partners is a fresh alcohol action plan with five strategic themes:
- Working together and sharing intelligence
- Early intervention and education
- Treatment and support
- Diversion and prevention
Partners have agreed to use innovative approaches in Nottinghamshire that have been trialled elsewhere in the country in the hope of delivering similar success as well as improving information sharing between local agencies including hospitals and ambulance trusts. Other aims include increasing the effectiveness of schemes such as Pubwatch and introducing service level agreements between alcohol treatment providers and local domestic violence services.
Plans to step up enforcement include increasing the number of licensing officers employed by Nottinghamshire Police as well as expanding the number of proactive licensing visits in crime hotspots to check compliance. They also intend to intervene earlier to prevent those already under the influence of alcohol drinking to excess by using legal powers.
Commissioner Tipping said: “Our communities naturally want tougher enforcement at the point of sale and within the night-time economy. But it is also accepted that more needs to be done to promote permanent recovery, and for this reason we aim to significantly improve our treatment and support services.
“It’s also important to recognise that the night time economy is important to local prosperity, so we will work together with our partners to ensure that the City and other town centres are safe places to visit.”
Eight in ten people living in Nottinghamshire believe children and young people should receive more education about the perils of alcohol abuse, the survey found.
More than half of those who took part in the survey admitted that alcohol use is a problem in their neighbourhood, town or city. Of those surveyed, 80% wanted greater controls over under-age drinking, 80% wanted increased enforcement over drink driving and 67% of people wanted to see more controls over drinking in public.
Importantly, the public appeared to share the Commissioner’s view that education is key to helping to steer young people towards a healthy, law-abiding lifestyle with 83% of respondents saying more work was needed in this area. This was closely followed by greater enforcement and prosecution which received support from 61% of residents and increased public awareness which was backed by 57% of those who took part in the survey.
Commissioner Tipping said: “This survey shows us there is strong support for an approach which tackles the root causes of alcohol abuse as well as its symptoms.
”The partnership work we are now developing will help professionals identify those at risk of alcohol misuse much earlier and deliver the necessary support and intervention before they have a chance to make bad decisions which could affect the rest of their lives.
“All of this prevention work will be complemented by tougher enforcement and increased use of the legal powers open to us to deter those who continue to refuse help and support from inflicting damage on themselves, their families and the community as a whole.”
Other findings included:
- strong support for greater controls over the hours of sale with 49% of respondents wanting more controls compared to 20% who felt there should be less.
- just over half of respondents felt that nightclubs and pubs were open too long. A total of 46% of people supported minimum unit pricing strategy while 60% of people said retailers, public houses and clubs should cover the cost of policing the night-time economy rather than local people through council tax charges.
The path to recovery
Commissioner Tipping’s new Alcohol Strategy focuses on both prevention and cure. Together with partners, a multifaceted programme of action will expand treatment and support services, step up enforcement, make it harder for young people to purchase alcohol and provide early intervention.
“In the future, we will all jointly support each other to lessen the impact of problem drinking on the health service, public safety, individuals and families and local taxpayers while also protecting the prosperity of the night-time economy,” he said.
“We have agreed a range of new procedures to ensure all frontline services have training in alcohol-related harm and its links to domestic abuse to better identify risks within families.
We’re also pursuing plans to test new enforcement approaches which have found success elsewhere in the country and increase the number of licensing officers employed to carry out spot checks of premises.
Public sector, voluntary and community service providers have been independently seeking solutions to reduce alcohol harm for many years. As Commissioners, however, we are in the unique position of being able to pull together all these strands and facilitate improved communication so that all our efforts are targeted towards a wider purpose.
We continue to see the devastation and destruction wreaked by alcohol crime on individuals, families and children despite the huge volumes of taxpayer’s money being spent on policing and justice. More than 10m adults in England now drink more than the recommended daily limit, with 2.6m of them drinking more than twice that. The number of hospital admissions due to alcohol misuse was 1.1m in 2009/10 – a rise of 100% since 2002/03. It has become quite clear that we are targeting our efforts at the wrong end of the cycle and would be better off investing funds in prevention programmes to address the reasons why people have sought solace in alcohol.
Police forces also have a lot to gain. PCCs have the luxury of being able to draw on the expertise of a host of external experts and service providers to deliver complementary solutions that assist operational policing. None of us are sitting back and waiting for someone else to take remedial action, we’re initiating it through positive decisions based on what is necessary for success and what the public have asked of us.”