Plea for more cash to tackle drinking on streets

Only €1m was last year spent on providing alternatives for young people to discourage drinking on the streets, it was revealed today.

Only €1m was last year spent on providing alternatives for young people to discourage drinking on the streets, it was revealed today.

Even though alcohol misuse costs Europe €125bn a year, in comparison, virtually no funding goes on schemes for teenagers such as clubs, youth cafes and recreation facilities.

Only 19 groups around the country got taxpayers' money to develop these alternatives last year.

The fifth annual Meas conference in Dublin was told more resources needs to be devoted to meaningful and concrete actions to prevent drink-related harm.

Peter Cassells, one of the speakers and chairman of the Government’s special initiative on alcohol misuse, said local groups had to be supported financially.

“It may take a generation to change but the big thing is we need to help the local groups who are coming together to give them the money,” he said.

Youth initiatives have already been set up in Mallow, Co Cork, Galway, Letterkenny and a few areas of Dublin.

But Mr Cassells warned: “Government itself won’t be able to resolve this problem. It does require major action at a local level by groups coming together to tackle problems.”

A report into the effects of alcohol across Europe revealed drink-related road accidents cost €10bn, health €17bn, absenteeism €9bn while the crime bill runs to €32bn.

The extent of alcohol abuse in Ireland was revealed last year in a survey which found 25% of boys and 22% of girls have been drunk at the age of 13 or younger. Binge drinking among adults is still the biggest problem.

Fionnuala Sheehan, chief executive of Meas, the alcohol responsibility body, called for an agreed regulation for both the on-trade and of-trade sectors to ensure a fair playing field and equal controls on the availability of alcohol.

Robert Madelin, European Commission director general for health and consumer protection, who revealed the shocking cost of alcohol abuse, called for increased co-operation between member states to tackle the issue.

He said more than 40 economic bodies and NGOs have signed up to a charter to set up a common platform, the Alcohol and Health Forum, to work to prevent alcohol-related harm.

According to the latest Eurobarometer survey of attitudes to alcohol, almost half those asked said authorities should intervene to protect people from drink-related harm.

On the health side, more than 80% want warnings on bottles on the dangers of alcohol including some aimed specifically at pregnant women.

Three quarters of people also agreed the legal blood alcohol level should be lowered for young and novice drivers and that random checks should be introduced.

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