A new report looks at alcohol use amongst young people in London's Criminal Justice System. Produced by Alcohol Concern and Mentor UK, it explores alcohol misuse amongst this group as an under-researched area, and makes recommendations for services to better understand associated risks.
'Demon Drink? A study of alcohol and youth offending in London' states 9,542 young people were involved in London's youth justice system in 2011-12, with over 20,000 offences recorded.
Nationally it is estimated that alcohol consumption amongst young people aged 10 to 17 years is responsible for 80,640 violent offences per year and for criminal activity costing in excess of £5 million annually to the criminal justice service.
The report emphasises how alcohol misuse is likely to cluster with other related risks such as poor mental health and negative educational outcomes, increasing the likelihood that misuse may be overlooked. Young people themselves may not feel they have a problem as most are not ‘addicted’ (dependent). Early intervention such as IBA to address risky alcohol misuse is therefore imperative.
The report makes 4 key summary recommendations:
- Youth justice case workers need to be confident in addressing risky alcohol use as well as making referrals to specialist support when necessary. Case workers should be trained in Identification and Brief Advice (IBA) and motivational interviewing techniques that are shown to be effective.
- All those working with children and young people, particularly those working with vulnerable groups such as young offenders, need to be aware of and to implement National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance around alcohol and substance misuse.
- Risky alcohol use often presents as one of a cluster of risks. Workers in both universal services (such as schools) and targeted services (such as youth offending teams) need to be aware of the heightened likelihood of alcohol use amongst ‘at risk’ young people.
- London has a consistently low-drinking culture with lower levels of use than all other regions of the country. The findings of this study cannot be considered to be representative nationally, and further research is needed in other areas to better understand alcohol use amongst offender cohorts.
A Joseph Rowntree Foundation report Young People, Alcohol and Influences takes a broader look at influences on young people's drinking. Further children and young people reports and guidance can be found here on the Alcohol Learning Centre, including the CMO guidance which says an alcohol free childhood is best. Last year two reports called for the protection of children from alcohol harm. See all Alcohol Policy UK young people tagged reports.