Children’s charities back alcohol minimum pricing

A consortium of children’s charities in Scotland has backed the Scottish Government’s plans for minimum pricing on alcohol.

The group is urging the Government to put “children’s interests at the heart of alcohol policy”.

Last March ministers announced that a minimum price is to be set on a unit of alcohol in a bid to tackle Scotland’s binge drinking crisis.

The NSPCC’s ChildLine service in Scotland has submitted a joint statement with seven other organisations: Children 1st; Aberlour; YouthLink Scotland; Barnardo’s Scotland; Action for Children Scotland; Quarriers; and Parenting across Scotland.

The charities warn that excessive parental drinking has negative affects on children through emotional stress, abuse and neglect.

A joint research project by ChildLine in Scotland, Scottish Health Action in Scotland and Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems found the number of Scots children talking to the service about harmful parental drinking over a ten-year period was higher in Scotland than the rest of the UK.

Elaine Chalmers, head of ChildLine in Scotland, said: “We know from calls that harmful drinking by a parent or carer can dominate family relationships and affect children’s wellbeing in every aspect of their lives.

“Alcohol policy needs to implement measures that will protect children from harm.

“This includes minimum pricing which should be supported by other policies relating to support and education. We need to see better public awareness of the impact of harmful parental drinking on children and their families as well as greater awareness of what services are available to support people in this situation.

“Children tell us family separation and loss can trigger an escalation in their parents’ drinking so we need to see more support for families.”

One girl told ChildLine: “I have trouble with my parents – dad drinks and mum works nights. He gets drunk and gets abusive. He loses his temper and it’s scary.”

A boy told the charity: “I didn’t go to school today – I was too scared. Sometimes I feel like I just want to die.”

The charities’ recommendations include support schemes in schools involving trained pupils and staff.

They also suggest that the public approach to measuring harm caused by alcohol should be broadened to include data on the harm caused to people other than the drinker.

In January research revealed that alcohol abuse in Scotland costs every adult around £900 per year.

Researchers from the University of York estimated the total burden to taxpayers to be around £3.56 billion a year.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Health Secretary, said at the time, “the total cost of alcohol misuse to Scotland’s economy and society is even worse than we thought”.

“The time for stalling is over and the need for action is clear”, she added.

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