Islington in the fight against young drinking
With the third-highest density of licensed premises in London, Islington has a vibrant nightlife. As the number of the borough’s young drinkers keep rising, the council and several local organisations are now trying to educate about the dangers of alcohol
Islington is second smallest borough is not as sober as its size would suggest. The NHS Public Health report from 2012 revealed that Islington has the highest rate of hospital admissions of under-aged drinkers in all of London.
Islington’s Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy for 2013-2016 reports similar numbers, showing that 9% of 11-17 year olds in the borough will have been drunk at least once in the last four weeks.
Alcohol plays a key role in Islington’s nightlife, contributing to employment and the borough’s economic growth.
However, the side effect of this local economy booster also affects the most vulnerable age group, who are often unaware of its risks.
A 19-year-old student living in Islington said:
“I used to drink alcohol regularly even before I turned 18, but I stopped after some embarrassing experiences. My friend and me even ended up in hospital once, because we drank too much vodka with Red Bull at our friend’s flat party. I usually know my limits when I drink outside, because everything’s so expensive, but when I am with my friends, I feel this pressure to drink with them.”
But the concern of local residents and the council is also rising with the increase of young drinkers in the area, resulting in more programmes that offer alcohol education and support. In a recent study conducted by Islington Council, 64% of people in Islington said they were concerned or quite concerned about alcohol-related crime and violence in the area.
Alan Mead, a 65-year-old local resident, believes that the education of young Islingtoners should incorporate more lifestyle options. He said:
“With cutbacks in local government services, such as youth clubs, young people are all but driven to associate on the streets and to drink alcohol, or be exposed to drug use. Pupils are also rarely taught about the role of money, and how to use it. If they are fortunate enough to earn money, many splurge and get into difficulties.”
Haringey Sends Help To Islington
Haringey Advisory Group on Alcohol (HAGA) has a long history of providing services to children affected by alcohol and drug misuse in the London borough of Haringey. This year, HAGA decided to offer their long-term experience to Islington’s youth after the striking reports had been revealed.
“We decided to run free alcohol awareness training sessions here after what we saw in the latest Islington’s Public Health Scheme,” said Lauren Joyce, a Brief Intervention Specialist at HAGA. “Islington was found to have the London’s highest death rate from liver disease.”
This February, HAGA started to run several workshops for young people, parents and carers on risks of alcohol consumption, raising confidence in parents and adults to speak with their children about alcohol misuse and teach them how to recognize if someone has a problem with alcohol.
One of the latest workshops HAGA organized for primary school children in Islington was aimed to help children make the right decisions, said Joyce. “We ran stalls where we asked children to wear so-called ‘beer goggles’, which simulate a drunk person’s slower reactions and distorted vision,” she said. “Children could see how a drunk person feels and what are the risks of higher alcohol consumption.”
Don’t Bottle It Up – An online test that rates your drinking habits
Last year, almost one thousand Islingtoners took part in an online alcohol test developed by HAGA; the results showed that 75% were found to be at some level of risk of harm from alcohol, more than three times the national average.
Don’t Bottle It Up is a two-minute online test, which consists of ten questions related to your drinking habits such as how much and how often you drink and what effects alcohol has on you. Once a person completes the questionnaire, they can request a follow-up call or email where they are offered any advice or support that might help them change their drinking habits, says Joyce.
Islington pupils learn to make healthier choices
Healthy Schools London is a programme that provides guidance to schools in London on children’s health and welfare. The programme wants to support young children to make healthy choices, to be more physically active and to eat more healthy food during their lunchtime. All schools in the capital can join the programme and once they meet all the criteria and show that they are promoting the wellbeing of their students, they are recognised with an award scheme sponsored by the Mayor of London.
Some of the Islington’s schools have already taken part in Healthy Schools of London and work on improving the health-related decisions of their students. One of the activities used in Year 9 classrooms of Islington schools asked pupils to identify everyday alcohol issues through a range of exercises, games and role plays. The exercise revealed, for example, that a high number of pupils would like to know more about first aid skills.
Council attacks Islington’s pub culture
Islington Council is aware of the dangerously growing number of young drinkers in the area and it partially blames the borough’s high number of licensed premises. On February 28, Islington Council became the first in London to introduce a late night levy, an annual charge paid by licensed premises that are selling alcohol between midnight and 6am, as a contribution to the cost of late-night policing and clean-up. Islington has the third highest density of licensed premises in London, with 1,200 licensed premises in total.
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